Join PEN Piedmont at at Scuppernong Books to celebrate BIPOC and LGBTQ+ books! In collaboration with Gamma Xi Phi, a predominately African-American fraternity of men and women in the arts, this discussion will focus on the campaign to ban books by and about BIPOC and LGBTQ+ writers, while also providing strategies to push back against these censorious threats.
Books featuring these themes have been deliberately targeted by governments and school systems nationwide. In PEN’s report “Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor,” during the 2022–23 school year, PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year, with 30 percent of those books including characters of color or discussing race and racism, and 30 percent contain LGBTQ+ characters or themes.
ABOUT GAMMA XI PHI
Gamma Xi Phi is a predominately African-American organization of men and women in the arts, including literature, visual art, music, theater, and dance. GXP was established at Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey, on October 7, 2010, on the principles of Philanthropy, Sodality, and Elevation. The purpose of Gamma Xi Phi is to honor the achievements of artists through fellowship, philanthropy, social justice, and service. Gamma Xi Phi creates a world in which artists are valued as thoughtful and justice-oriented leaders in their communities and in their careers.
La Toya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Her short stories have been included in various anthologies, including In Our Words: Queer Stories from Black, Indigenous and People of Color Writers and Black From The Future: A Collection of Black Speculative Writing. Hankins currently serves as the National President of Gamma Xi Phi.
Hankins serves as a content producer for Black Spaces: Sci-Fi from Black LGBTQ Perspective, a YouTube channel that discusses black representation in science-fiction. Hankins received her Bachelor of Arts degree from East Carolina University and is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Hankins is working on her third novel, exploring the relationship between mothers and daughters.
Readers can savor her blog, Caviar and Pate: Memories of a Flavorful Childhood, and keep up with her literary adventures at www.latoyahankins.com or by following her at @toyahankins on Instagram.
Marla Taviano (she/her) is a voracious reader, editor, poet, and author of two books: unbeliever: poems on the journey to becoming a heretic and jaded: a poetic reckoning with white evangelical christian indoctrination. She reviews books by BIPOC authors on IG: @whitegirllearning and wears her heart on her t-shirts. You can learn more about her work here: @marlataviano on IG and marlataviano.com.
Salem West is the publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Bywater Books and their Amble Press imprint. She is active in the queer literary community and a vocal opponent of censorship of the LGBT+ and POC communities. Previously, she was the voice of The Rainbow Reader, a ground-breaking review blog that combined original essays with insightful analysis of all genres of LGBT literature; and she served as a Trustee of Lambda Literary. As a writer, a novel she co-wrote with novelist Ann McMan was a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist, and as an editor, the Sapphic Halloween anthology, Soul Food Stories: An Otherworldly Feast for the Living, the Dead, and Those Who Have Yet to Decide was published on October 17 th, 2023.
Deonna Kelli Sayed is the PEN Piedmont chapter leader and a writer-performer based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Deonna’s essays and short stories are included in Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women; Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay; and Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction From a Small Planet, Volume III. She is the author of Paranormal Obsession: America’s Fascination with Ghosts & Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits, and is a TEDx speaker.
Sayed’s personal essays appear online, including at The Dirty Spoon, and Jennifer Pastiloff’s The Manifest-Station. Deonna is an award-winning multimedia journalist for her podcast series at Yes!Weekly, an independent newspaper, featuring LGBTQ+ issues in North Carolina.
Originally from rural North Florida, Deonna is a globally connected storyteller engaged in interfaith work modeled on dialogue across difference. She served as the Membership Coordinator for the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and Festival Coordinator for Greensboro Bound. Deonna works for the Triad Health Project, a sexual health and justice organization.