Firestorm Books, a collectively-owned radical bookstore in Asheville, N.C., has acquired 22,500 copies of 46 children's books that were banned from the Duval County Public School system in Florida. Under a campaign named "Banned Books Back!," the bookstore plans to distribute these books to children and families across the United States, starting with Florida.

Last year, Duval County school administrators ordered the removal of numerous titles focused on gender issues, racism, colonialism and more. Half of the titles that were pulled focused on LGBTQIA+ topics. "When we were told that these books were at risk of being destroyed, we knew we had to act," Esmé Joy, co-owner of Firestorm Books, said.

Firestorm, with the help of community volunteers, plans to begin shipping these removed books to children starting in mid-January. Their focus will be on states where freedom to read is facing challenges. Additionally, the bookstore intends to collaborate with grassroots organizers, educators, and librarians to distribute thousands of books to reach children and families not accessible through direct shipments. They are asking for community support to cover shipping costs.

"We're working to return these books as an act of solidarity with the kids from whom they were taken. We hope the campaign can connect with, and contribute to, a broader antifascist struggle because book bans aren't happening in isolation,” Beck Nippes, another co-owner of Firestorm Books, explained. “They're connected to attacks on reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare in a climate of escalating violence against queer and trans folks, especially youth."

Among banned books that Firestorm Books will distribute are Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga; Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie; and 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Rex Ray. A full list is available online.

Children and their allies in Florida can now request free books through Firestorm Books' website, specifying either picture books for ages 4–8 or chapter books for ages 8–12. Requests will be fulfilled as funding becomes available, with Firestorm co-owner Glenda Ro noting that initial fundraising efforts have already covered the postage costs for the first 700 requests.