On Oct. 4 and 5, Charleston will once again host the West Virginia Book Festival at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. The Book Festival, operated by the Kanawha Public Library, is an annual event held in the capital city.
Casual readers and bookworms alike highly anticipate the coming year’s special guest speakers. The festival has long promoted an inclusive, family friendly environment. Unfortunately, this track record for equality and inclusivity will be brought to a close on Saturday afternoon.
Orson Scott Card, a novelist best known for “Ender’s Game,” is this year’s special guest. Aside from his literary work, Card is also known for a plethora of homophobic and racist statements. Card has routinely expressed his opposition to marriage equality. In an article in the Deseret News in 2008, he went as far as to declare the United States government, and any government that legalizes same sex marriage, as his enemy. “I will act to destroy that government and bring it down,” Card stated.
Card doesn’t stop with homophobia and has a hefty catalogue of racist commentary. In an essay published in May 2013, Card referenced the untrustworthy nature of “black men who sound like white men.”
In response to the backlash, the Book Festival has offered in response, “authors are chosen based on their work, not their personal opinions.”
While his opinions on the LGBTQ community are not the purpose of his visit, it is highly disrespectful to spotlight an individual marred by such intolerance. As a publicly funded event, the Book Festival must provide an equitable atmosphere to the community. Placing a bigot at the forefront, regardless of his literary talents, reflects a poor vetting process at best. At worst, it is indicative of a serious problem with the very administration of the Book Festival. Not only does Card’s appearance alienate a federally-recognized segment of our community, but it provides a precedent for future guests.
The West Virginia Book Festival has long been a place of literary celebration, inclusion and community. It is incredibly disturbing to see it become the home of bigotry and intolerance. Hate has no place in our Mountain State. Shame on the Book Festival administration.