With the government granting itself sweeping new surveillance powers, castigating its opponents as unpatriotic, and equating differing opinions with abetting "America's enemies," free speech seems an early casualty of the war on terrorism. But as this book brilliantly demonstrates, to sacrifice our freedom of speech is to surrender the very heart and soul of America.
Nan Levinson tells the stories of twenty people who refused to let anyone whittle away at their right to speak, think, create, or demur as they pleased. Among these sometimes unlikely defenders of free speech are Rick Nuccio, a diplomat who disclosed secret information about the torture of Jennifer Harbury's husband and related government misconduct in Guatemala; Daisy Sánchez, a Puerto Rican journalist who risked going to prison to protect her sources; Penny Culliton, a high school teacher who was fired for discussing gays and lesbians in literature; Michael Willhoite, author of the children's book, Daddy's Roommate, which was the most banned book in the country for two years running; Steve Johnson, a fireman who fought for his right to read Playboy at work; and Annie Sprinkle, a former porn star who defended her performance piece, Post-Porn Modernist, as art.
In an engaging, anecdotal style, Levinson explores the balance between First Amendment and other rights, such as equality, privacy, and security; the relationship among behavior, speech, and images; the tangle of suppression, marketing, and politics; and the role of dissent in our society. These issues come to vibrant life in the stories recounted in Outspoken, stories that-whether heroic or infamous, outrageous or straightforward-remind us again and again of the power of words, and of the strength of a democracy of voices.
“Nan Levinson, herself one of this nation's free speech heroes, brings the First Amendment to life by telling the stories of those who have fought for the freedom we so often take for granted, but that is increasingly under attack. This book shows in funny, tragic, and lurid detail why the freedom of speech is worth fighting for.“
David Cole, author
of No Equal Justice
“Outspoken is heartwarming and inspiring, as
it reminds us that there are people who refuse to be cowed into obedience,
who maintain their resistance to war and injustice against all odds."
Howard Zinn, author
of A People's History of the United States
"Levinson's book couldn't come at a more important time. These compelling tales are increasingly relevant now that our civil liberties are being threatened in the name of 'national security.' Outspoken should be required reading for anyone interested in preserving the freedom we've come to take for granted in the United States."
Candida Royalle, Erotic
film director and President, Femme Productions, Inc.
"In this imaginative
and highly readable examination of dozens of provocative First Amendment
controversies, Nan Levinson establishes herself as a resolute student
of the role of free speech in a democratic society. This is an exceptional
book about an endlessly important subject.”
James O. Freedman,
President Emeritus, Dartmouth College
Author of Liberal Education and the Public Interest
"America's national obsession with asserting, and quelling, free speech comes alive in this collection of profiles of First Amendment firebrands....Levinson paints complex portraits of the flawed, courageous and sometimes cantankerous souls willing to take on opprobrium for unpopular ideas. Using their stories as a starting point, Levinson discusses the many fronts in the cultural war over speech....The author goes beyond the usual polarized corners of political correctness....her nuanced treatment of all sides of the debate makes this a revealing exploration of the social meaning of words."
“Journalist Levinson captures the vibrancy and cacophony of democracy through the stories of 20 protagonists who voiced discordant views and tested society's commitment to free expression....These engagingly narrated personal dramas provide a remarkably panoramic view of American society through the lens of free expression issues....Levinson's reflections challenge readers to rethink their own ideas about the role of speech in democracy and in their lives.“
A.B. Cochran, Choice: Currents Review For Academic Libraries
“So many books on current event lose relevance over time. Levinson's is not one of them....At a time when debate concerning the extension of the Patriot Act doesn't get half the attention it should, when the actions of todays legislators could possibly unravel over two hundred years of commitment to freedom of expression, one might easily conclude that it couldn't have come at a better time.“
Roxane O'Connell, Respect & Reason: Civil Discourse at Roger William College
“Outspoken could become polemic; instead, it allows us to meet the human beings behind the conflicts....Levinson agilely weaves in the historical, legal, and social context in which events occurred....Perhaps most significantly, each story demands that we examine our own capacity for tolerance as well as the strength of our own convictions, essentially begging the question, Would you have the guts to do that?“
Ian Marquand, Journal of Mass Media Ethics
“Outspoken puts a human face on First Amendment theories and cases.“
John Davis Malloy, FirstAmendmentCenter.org
“Levinson's subjects remind us again and again of the power of words and the strength a democracy of voices creates and challenges on a daily basis. Like our liberties, her book should not be taken for granted.“
“These stories remind us of the power and importance of the individual voice.“
Womens Review of Books
“Levinson...never waivers in her commitment to First Amendment values but also doesn't avoid complexity and nuance....Levinson demonstrates, in great detail, that free speech does not come cheap....Thus, this tome could function equally as a clarion call to courageous dissent -- or a warning to shut up.“
Sandford Berman, College & Research Libraries News