The American Booksellers Association apologizes for mailing out Abigail Shrier’s book, calling it a “serious, violent incident”

July 17, 2021 • 11:15 am

It’s a sad day when not only people in the ACLU call for banning Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters, but then the American Booksellers Association, self-described as “dedicated to free expression”, grovels to the mob and apologizes for sending out Shrier’s book in a batch of sample books dispatched to 750 bookstores.

First, though, let’s refresh you on Chase Strangio, the ACLU staff attorney in charge of gender issues, who emitted two tweets asking for “stopping the book’s circulation.” That’s a call for censorship. Here are the tweets.

And of course we’ve talked a bit about Shrier’s book, which I’ve just read. It is neither transphobic nor full of hate; it simply raises issues connected with “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD), an exponentially increasing condition among adolescent girls in which they decide they want to be boys and, with the help of compliant parents, therapists, and doctors (and often without proper vetting) begin taking puberty blockers and then have hormonal and often surgical treatment. Shrier’s point was that this phenomenon may partly stem from social-media pressure and the valorization of being “trans”, which brings you attention you wouldn’t get if you simply declared yourself a lesbian. It may often be associated with mental illness, and in many cases may go away on its own.  Further, ROGD is often not treated according to rigorous standards promoted by some medical associations.

Shrier’s point, and that of Jesse Singal, whom we discussed yesterday, is that we have little data on the form of gender dysphoria which comes on quickly in adolescent girls (it’s much rarer in boys), and before we go injecting hormones and cutting, we need much more extensive medical and psychological data. Shrier’s book is valuable because it calls attention to a phenomenon that needs attention, and should promote not only discussion, but the necessary research.  Shrier’s book is thus a valuable contribution to a discussion.

But many trans activists don’t want that discussion. Like Chase Strangio, they want Shrier’s book banned, arguing that simply bringing up the issue is itself a case of “transphobia.” That’s as far from the truth as you can get, for if you read Irreversible Damage, you’ll see that Shrier is sympathetic to the plight of transsexual people and only wants to ensure that those with ROGD are treated properly.

Strangio isn’t the only one who is deeply offended by Shrier’s book. As Sykes reports:

After receiving two Twitter complaints, Target stopped selling the book (a decision they later reversed . . . and then reversed again). Hundreds of Amazon employees signed a petition demanding the company stop selling the book.

And yes, I just checked the Target site; Shrier’s book, once reinstated, has now been eliminated again. But it’s still on Amazon, where it’s selling like hotcakes.

Which brings us to the American Bookseller’s Association (ABA). According to Charlie Sykes’s column, which you can read for free below (click on the screenshot), the ABA is dedicated, as all such associations should be, to free expression. Yet the story of the ABA and Shrier’s book belies that promise (read more details in the story at Publisher’s Weekly).

Here’s the ABA statement noted by Sykes, and it still appears on the ABA’s webpage (click on screenshot):

Well, they didn’t adhere to these principles of free expression after booksellers who received Shrier’s book in their sample box pushed back HARD.  Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly reports:

At Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstores, book buyer Casey Morrissey was the first person in the store to open the box. Morrissey shared their reactions on Twitter, and other booksellers quickly joined in, echoing their comments.

@ABAbook I’m seething. I was excited to open our July white box, and then the first book I pulled out is “Irreversible Damage.” Do you know how that feels, as a trans bookseller and book buyer? It isn’t even a new title, so it really caught me in the gut. Do better.

— Casey (@CaseyBookEater) July 14, 2021

Needless to say, Casey Morrissey’s Twitter account is now restricted.

And there was this (from PW):

Among booksellers, however, there was little disagreement about the content of the book. “As longtime @ABAbook members with beloved staff across the gender spectrum, we’re extremely disappointed and angered to see the ABA promoting dangerous, widely discredited anti-trans propaganda, and we’re calling for accountability,” the Harvard Book Store wrote on Twitter.

No, Shrier’s book is neither dangerous nor “widely discredited.” So much for the Harvard Bookstore.

After a few reactions like this, the ABA issued a groveling apology. Get a load of this:

The “anti-trans” book was Shrier’s. Note how the ABA (which itself has now restricted its tweets), notes that merely sending out the book was a “serious, violent incident”. No it wasn’t: there was no violence involved, and sending it out did not violate the ABA policies. It’s absolutely pathetic that the ABA has to grovel and mewl like this. The debasing of the word “violence”, making a peaceful act sound warlike, continues.

But of course apologies are never good enough for the Woke, which suggests that you should never apologize for something you did if you were expressing your honest views. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly adds:

But booksellers said the statement fell short, calling out the organization’s use of the passive voice in the opening sentence. They also demanded greater transparency about how the decision to include the book was initially made, and called for demonstrable steps to restore trust with trans book workers and authors. Some called on the ABA to offer promotions for trans authors’ books at no cost.

ABA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee member Luis Correa, who works as a bookseller at Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., was first made aware of the issue when fellow booksellers emailed him Morrissey’s tweet. Correa identifies as a queer, Latino, and fat-bodied person, and said he thought the apology was flawed.

“I’m disappointed with the use of the passive language at the beginning of the statement and the shift in blame. They really should say that ‘we included this book,’” Correa said. The DEI Committee is comprised of ABA member booksellers and does not consult on the selections for the white boxes.

They don’t like the passive voice in the first sentence, apparently wanting the ABA to say “WE included an anti-trans book in our July mailing to members”!  Now the wording of apologies has to be perfect as well!

There were further apologies. From PW:

Separately, the ABA board of directors, all of whom are booksellers, weighed in with an email to members.

“These incidents harmed booksellers, ABA board members, and ABA staff who identify as LGBTQIA+ and/or BIPOC, as well as the wider community. They also added to a toxic culture overall,” they wrote. “We are not the ABA of two years ago. These actions are antithetical to the values we are working to promote in our organization under the strong leadership of our CEO, Allison Hill, and COO, Joy Dallanegra-Sanger. This is not acceptable behavior and goes against the bylaws changes instituted last year.”

UPDATE: The ABA, as reader Coel notes below, has issued a second and even more cringeworthy apology. It’s unbelievable; have a look:

“Horrific harm”? “Traumatized and endangered members of the trans community.” How, exactly, did people get endangered?


No, nobody was “harmed.” People might have been offended, but damaged? I doubt it. And, as Stephen Fry points out repeatedly, being offended is not an argument; it’s an emotion.

Apparently the “new” ABA is in favor of restricting free expression.

But there are some who still stood up for free expression on Twitter. One of them was, of course, Shrier herself, though the tweet she references is now hidden. I do take some satisfaction in feeling that all this brouhaha about Irreversible Damage can only be good for Shrier by getting people to read her book. It’s a literary Streisand Effect, and shows why campaigns like the ABA’s are ineffectual. The book is now #75 on Amazon, and it’s been out for over a year.

And a few more gems reproduced by Sykes:

But this is my favorite:

h/t: Steve, Barry

30 thoughts on “The American Booksellers Association apologizes for mailing out Abigail Shrier’s book, calling it a “serious, violent incident”

  1. Maybe the book really is like the Necronomicon from Army of Darkness. If you don’t say the magic words it starts to bite.

  2. Let’s nominate Craig Slizt for the boards of the ACLU and the American Booksellers Assn. His tweet was better than coffee this morning. “Thank you. I accidentally bought this violent book. UPS left it on my doorstep, and when I got home, it beat the crap out of me.” Superb.

  3. This morning I got into a minor spat with a Facebook user who was ranting about the terrible harm to the community done by cultural appropriation. This was a local food and restaurant group. These people are just crazy and seem to have no idea how stupid they sound. And the Woke are so sure of themselves which is tremendously frustrating. This person was going on and on about how her position was taken from years of academic study.

    Since they don’t want to engage in any deep discussion of their positions, ridicule is probably our best weapon. To normal people, their claims are ridiculous on their face. Their very easy to make fun of. If they don’t want to fight back with reasoned arguments, the humor can do its job.

      1. Actually, the discussion about food cultural appropriation blew up. So many commenters chimed in from both sides. It was kind of fascinating. There was definitely a lot of skepticism of the Woke position. Only a small few people were pushing CA, responding to their opponents with claims to have studied the literature. I think it’s important (and kind of fun) to call BS on these people whenever and wherever we can.

    1.  “Correa identifies as a queer, Latino, and fat-bodied person”. This gave me a horse-laugh, for a start.

      1. Same with me. So he is defined by his sexual orientation, his ethnicity and his weight? Why do I still try to teach my children NOT to judge other people or their thoughts based on whom they love or what they look like? Or, for that matter, themselves?

        Maybe I should change that.. this is our friend Aaron, it is not interesting what he actually does or says, he is defined be being a thin white trans male. Oh and your classmate Fatima? Care not about what she laughs about or that you share an interest in unicorns. What really is important is that she is black, a bit fatty and her parents are Muslims. Sadly, we do not yet know her sexual orientation. So go and apologize for your white privilege.

  4. “… stopping circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on.”

    Good chance, figuratively speaking, ol’ Chance’ll get his wish. A condign outcome, I’d call it.

    1. My first thought as well…this is raw meat for the Religious Right and their rabble, and would only increase their voter turnout, and sway a few moderates, leading to possibly genuine harm, legally and otherwise, to the LGBTQ+++ community.

  5. There was also a second apology by the ABA (reproduced here). It’s even more ludicrous than the first, lamenting the “horrific harm” they did and how they had “traumatised and endangered” trans people.

  6. So, now the ACLU and the American Booksellers Association both join the parade of censorship. If the trans lobby, representing a minute sub-group, has the power to turn booksellers into book-burners, there must be more than political pressure involved, but rather a more general psychogenic disorder. With the delusion that the mere existence of a book is “violence”, we seem to have arrived at a period of mass hallucination, like that of the Children’s Crusade, the Flagellants, the dancing manias of the Middle Ages, and the witch trials. I wonder if anyone can explain the sociology of this contemporary epidemic. I am not persuaded that either grievance studies in academia, or helicopter parenting, or internet social media, are adequate to explain it Could it be lead in the water-pipes, or legalized pot, or a neurotoxin in the atmosphere? Wait a minute: maybe sub-lethal traces of novichok agents have been drifting from Salisbury to the rest of the world, including the offices of the American Booksellers Association.

    1. I wonder how many individuals, exactly, are personally affected, offended and damaged by the publication of such material. I bet that a lot of the a*seholes who have jumped on this bandwagon have done so because they want to be seen as up with the trend, or are afraid of what might happen to them if they don’t join in the pogrom.

      I may be an optimist, but I think there may a massive pushback coming. It might be in the form of lawsuits against colleges, schools or publishers who are foolish enough to engage in this sort of censorship. Or, hopefully, there might be enough honest people who are prepared to stand up and call this nonsense out for what it is.

      1. Although I hate to give the Right credit for much, and certainly their motives aren’t pure in this case, but perhaps their anti-CRT campaign will draw attention to CRT and Wokeness in general. So far, the Woke seem to mostly get a free pass as they bully their opponents and refuse any kind of intellectual accountability. The Republicans won’t be fair but they will force the discussion out into the open.

        1. Yes. If the truth be known, I’ve been kind of hoping it’ll be an acid meets base situation in the end, with an inert lump of some salt just sitting there, letting normal people get on with normal lives.

          I don’t know if the lunacy of the woke left and the insanity of the alt (but increasingly `mainstream’) right will cancel each other out—I think lawfare and ridicule are going to be necessary to neutralize both—but as long as there’s a chance….

  7. Just when one thinks that stupidity has reached a peak, something like this happens. Have these people absolutely no sense of how ridiculous they are? What is wrong with “Our last shipment included a book (details) which is controversial. Booksellers are of course free to promote it or decline to stock it.” ?

    1. One might even expect the ABA to remind people that books covering controversial topics are a good thing. People buying fewer books based on not wanting to read controversial topics would seem not to be in their interest. Are they really afraid of a boycott? On the other hand, their attitude drives people online. If bookshops don’t want to carry controversial books, Amazon will be happy to fill in the gap.

      1. Well, Amazon first banned Abigail Shrier’s book (then reversed the ban), they also banned Shelby Steele’s documentary on Ferguson (before reversing the ban). We can hope that Amazon will stock books that the woke don’t like, but it’s not a sure thing.

        1. PS, I think that the book on trans issues “When Harry Became Sally” by (conservative Christian) Ryan Anderson is still banned by Amazon.

  8. “… so it [the sight of the book Irreversible Damages] really caught me in the gut.”

    Yeah, well, a book on a controversial subject ought to catch you in the gut, even if it aims for a target somewhat higher (with apologies to Upton Sinclair).

  9. I’m not sure, but the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was abandoned only as recently as 1966.
    Does that leave a gap? Do we need a list of heretic books?
    The Woke (or ABA) should publish their own Index of heretic, dangerous prohibited books. Would be a great help in deciding which books might be worthwhile. (I think it is called ‘The Streisand Effect’ nowadays).
    I, for one, am going to order a copy of Shrier’s book right now.

  10. I attempted to search for “Abigail Shrier” on the ABA’s website. Results:

    “Enter terms
    Abigal Shrier
    Search results are indexed by category, e.g. news article, design file, general page, etc. The index appears in the top left of the results page.

    Search results
    Indie Shindig Invites Booksellers to Learn About Upcoming Titles to Benefit Binc
    titles coming out,” said Tanya Mills of The Book Bungalow in St. George, Utah. “A big help in knowing …

    (“A big” above in “A big help” was bolded as a search result. As in, supposedly, the first four letters of “Abigail.”)

    – 2020-08-19 14:25

    Advance Access- 2017-09-11
    Description: Brand-new stories by: Patrick Senécal, Tess Fragoulis, Howard Shrier, Michel Basilières, Rob Pobi, …

    (“Howard Shrier” was the other search result.)

    – 2017-09-11 12:03

    Filter Search Results
    BTW Article (1)Apply BTW Article filter
    General (1)

  11. Christians’ unpardonable sin: whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
    Woke’s unpardonable sin: whoever speaks against the infallibility of gender self-identification will not be forgiven.

  12. Totally bonkers. “Horrific harm”? “Traumatized and endangered members of the trans community.” These people need to get a grip on reality, or a dictionary…

  13. Damn it PCC (E), thank you for posting this stuff – it is UTTERLY amazing.
    My question is not “how did it get this far” – all this moral panic madness – but more “Where is the bridge too far?” – for sane thinking people who aren’t fanatic activists of the Khmer Rouge flavor?
    I ponder this sometimes and I can’t see an end point which is worrying.

    Perhaps if the booksellers ass’n head committed seppuku in the town square as contrition for the terrible “violence” and “erasure” (my favorite crazyism) of MAILING A BOOK TO BOOKSELLERS?
    Where’s the end of this?

  14. I would like to expand on the statement that “words no longer have meaning.” This is not new. Ophelia Benson questioned the transgender mantra that Transwomen are Women several years ago on the blogging network ironically named “Freethought Blogs,” managed by PZ Myers and the late Ed Brayton. She was roundly criticized for raising the question of how identity changes sex, and accused of “literal violence” against trans identified males. Trans activists have been trying to make words meaningless for years, and even in demanding that we change the way we approach pronouns to track who identifies as what, they are making pronouns meaningless and confirming Humpty Dumpty. “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – nothing more, nothing less.” So, if they claim it’s violence, then that is exactly what it is. Alice’s response is hate. 🙂

  15. I hate this side of myself at least a little, but I feel SUCH a strong urge when I see such things called “violent” to volunteer to demonstrate to such people the difference between words and violence upon their person…using sticks and stones and various other such implements.

    Here’s the thing: If you don’t speak or read or understand a particular language (for instance) then you can’t even know what is said…and must, perforce, ignore the words; they will have no impact on you. They cannot hurt or help you. They are an unreadable program.

    You cannot ignore actual violence. Actual damage is something that cannot be ignored by someone without Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis or some similar condition…and even those people do not escape damage done, they simply don’t feel it. They still have shortened lifespans and crippling damage to limbs and organs.

    Someone’s book, unless used as a (literal) blunt weapon, cannot cause physical damage, and cannot be considered physical violence. Maybe Necronomicon or some of the restricted books in the Hogwarts’ library could do direct and actual harm…but thankfully, those are fictional.

    This is definitely a version of “First World Problems”, in a culture so pampered and protected that they cannot even discern the difference between words and violence, despite the old aphorism.

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