Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series, just received word that her 2005 novel Ready or Not was removed from shelves in Iowa's schools and libraries.
"I was super surprised," she says. "They've been banned before, but years ago, and I felt like we'd made progress as a society, but apparently not. We've gone backward."
The Indiana native calls Key West home, but she's leaving the Keys this weekend for an appearance at the Miami Book Fair on Saturday, November 18. She'll no doubt find a sympathetic ear in festival founder Mitchell Kaplan, who has been leading a crusade against book banning in Florida. His Coral Gables bookstore, Books & Books, recently hosted Banned Books Week, which raised awareness on the issue.
According to Cabot, Iowa has restricted students' access to Ready or Not because it mentions birth control and sex between teenagers. "I want to be sex-positive," Cabot says. "To deny information to people, especially young women, is not empowering them in any way."
The desire to ensure women have access to the information and services they need to live their best lives started for Cabot when she volunteered at Planned Parenthood as a young woman. She was tasked with drawing an illustrated birth-control guide for people who couldn't read or didn't speak English. "I think that triggered something in me. I had such an unhappy childhood and teenage years, and a lot of it was because there wasn't this information out there, and it needed to be normalized," she says.
Cabot says she's used to rejection as an author — not everyone takes to her books. "Just because one person doesn't like a book doesn't mean it should be pulled off the shelf; it means they shouldn't read that book," she says, calling that act fascism.
Still, Cabot believes there's hope for the future. Her suggestion? People need to run for office and their local school board. She has been asked to run for office and is considering it. "Everybody needs to act locally," she says.
During the early days of the pandemic, over several months, Cabot released 16 entries purported to be from her most well-known character, Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia. The entries were dubbed the "Coronavirus Princess Diaries." In March 2023, those entries were released and expanded upon as The Quarantine Princess Diaries, the 12th entry in the Princess Diaries series and the first since 2015. Writing it helped Cabot process how she felt and the tensions in society during the lockdown through the context of what the pandemic would have been like in the fictional country of Genovia. Cabot also confirms that another Princess Diaries movie is in the works.
While the pandemic was a global experience that affected everyone, books that explore the collective event still feel like a rarity. "There's definitely a feeling in the publishing industry that it's something we want to forget about," she says. "I really wanted to record in a lighthearted way what one person's experience was during the pandemic. A lot of people would not want to relive it but not forget it."
While The Princess Diaries is her best-known work, Cabot is attending the Miami Book Fair to promote Enchanted to Meet You: A Witches of West Harbor Novel, the first in a brand new series about a young witch who is destined to save the World Council of Witches. Don't worry; there'll be plenty of her signature comedic writing and romance. While writing the book, a group of Connecticut families whose ancestors were executed for being witches celebrated their exoneration.
"Witches become very popular again when women's rights are being threatened," Cabot observes.
Love Is Magic, Love Is Science. With Meg Cabot and Ali Hazelwood. 2:30 p.m. Saturday, November 18, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami, Room 3209 (Building 3, Second Floor); miamibookfair.com.