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Dominique Raccah, sourcebooks

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The “Woche der Meinungsfreiheit” (Freedom of Expression Week) will take place between 3 (International Press Freedom Day) and 10 May (anniversary of the book burnings) 2024. This is an initiative put together by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the recently founded Freedom of Expression Foundation and the Frankfurter Agenturallianz.  

The aim of the campaign week is to provide important impetus for the socio-political debate in Germany and to emphasise the importance of freedom of expression and lively debate for a democratic society. 

Every year, people from over 100 countries come together at Frankfurter Buchmesse. As part of the "Freedom of Expression Week", we focus on the perspectives of international members of the publishing industry. 

What does freedom of expression mean to you personally? What do you think is the biggest challenge to freedom of expression? What can publishers from around the world do to promote freedom of expression? 

In cooperation with the IPA (International Publishers Association), we put these questions to colleagues from India, Turkey, Spain, Italy, the UK, Canada and the USA and brought them together here.   

Dominique Raccah, Publisher, sourcebooks, USA 

What does freedom of expression mean to you personally? 

I immigrated to the United States as a child and learned English from frequent trips to my local library. At the library I was able to access any materials I wanted, which helped me not only learn my new language but to read freely and independently. I learned about new perspectives and discovered my love of poetry.  

I learned that there is more than one way to be a woman in this world, that there are bigger choices one can make with a life, and many different career options in the world (including being an entrepreneur); I found greater confidence and learned to see the world a bit differently.  

These books sculpted the teen and later the adult I became. I bonded with my husband over our joint love of Anaïs Nin, oddball science fiction and pulp mysteries. Diverse books and points of view made me who I am today, and in the end, I committed my life and my career to making sure others can access books that change lives. Because books change lives.  

What do you perceive as the greatest challenge to freedom of expression? 

The greatest challenge to freedom of expression is fear—fear of different opinions, fear of the unknown, and fear of change. Often, those who try to silence free speech do so because they’re uncomfortable challenging their own beliefs or facing the possibility that they might be wrong. This mindset normalizes xenophobia, homophobia, and racism, and it encourages people to stick to their own kind, avoiding any differing views.  

If you don’t want to read a book, don’t read it. But your opinion shouldn’t stop others from being able to read it if they want to. Right now, we’re facing a censorship epidemic spreading across the U.S., affecting what books can be found in schools, and in both public and school libraries. This isn’t just a simple debate—it’s a culture war where a small group of well-funded conservatives are pushing their fears and opinions onto everyone else. We know that the majority of Americans oppose book bans.   


What can publishers around the world do to promote freedom of expression? 

Publishers around the world have a unique responsibility in promoting freedom of expression. We get to help preserve and contribute to the beautifully diverse and exciting cultural conversations happening today. Here are a few of the things we can do together:  

1. Diversify Narratives: By actively seeking out and promoting authors and stories from underrepresented groups, publishers can continue to ensure a broader range of voices and perspectives are heard.  

2. Resist Censorship: Publishers need to stand firm against pressure to censor or modify content, whether it comes from governments, special interest groups, or advertisers. This also means supporting authors whose work may be controversial.  

3. Translation and Global Distribution: Translating works into multiple languages and distributing them worldwide can help spread ideas across cultural and national boundaries, enhancing global dialogue.  

4. Educational Outreach: There’s so much to do on the educational front. We need to work closely with schools and libraries to develop programs that encourage critical reading and thinking, helping younger generations appreciate the value of diverse opinions.  

5. Legal Support: Providing legal backing for writers facing censorship or legal challenges due to their work can be a strong stand for freedom of expression. I’m proud that our colleagues at Penguin Random House have been at the forefront of providing legal support to fight book banning.   

6. Collaboration: Working with other publishers, media outlets, and freedom of expression organizations can amplify their efforts and provide a more united front against censorship.  

There’s a lot to do today, with censorship and book banning on the rise. And publishers play a crucial role in helping to promote and enhance freedom of expression. As a publisher, I am proud to be able to do this work in service to authors, creators, readers, librarians, and educators everywhere.   

About Dominique Raccah 

Dominique Raccah is the publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks. The publishing house is dedicated to changing lives through books. As the seventh largest book publisher in North America, Sourcebooks now employs nearly 300 passionate employees and has published hundreds of national, international, and New York Times bestsellers in a variety of genres.


About the Freedom of Expression Week 

Now in its fourth year, the "Freedom of Expression Week" programme promotes the expression of opinion and lively debate for a democratic society. This year's programme includes more than 60 events throughout Germany.  

Further information on the programme and the Freedom of Expression Week Charter can be found here. in a new window)