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Outspoken: Free Speech Stories

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"America's national obsession with asserting, and quelling, free-speech comes alive in this collection of profiles of First Amendment firebrands.Ê.Ê.Ê. The author goes beyond the usual polarized corners of political correctness.Ê.Ê.Ê.Êher nuanced treatment of all sides of the debate makes this a revealing exploration of the social meaning of words."--Publishers Weekly

With the government granting itself sweeping new surveillance powers, castigating its critics 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 the cause of free speech are a diplomat who disclosed secret information about government misconduct in Guatemala, a Puerto Rican journalist who risked going to prison to protect her sources, a high school teacher who discussed gays and lesbians in literature, a fireman who fought for his right to read Playboy at work, and a former porn star who defended her performance piece as art. Caught up in conflicts that are alarming, complex, confusing, mean, or just plain silly, their cases are both emblematic and individually revealing, affording readers a rich variety of perspectives on the issues surrounding free speech debates.
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.

"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

"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

"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

About the Author

Nan Levinson
is a journalist in Boston and a lecturer at Tufts University.
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