No, Tattered Cover isn’t censoring “Levi’s Unbuttoned: The Woke Mob Took My Job but Gave Me My Voice”

Author Jennifer Sey, who opposed COVID-19 safety measures in schools, claimed the store wasn’t selling her book. Turns out, a copy was on the shelf.
5 min. read
The Tattered Cover’s Colfax Avenue location in Congress Park. Dec. 3, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Tattered Cover has seen a lot of changes over the past 50 years, but it's pretty clear that the store's still committed to free speech and selling books from all political persuasions.

Looking for an anarcho-communist manifesto? Boosterism for the Democratic or Republican parties? Antisemitic rants? Polyamorous propaganda? Amish erotica?

The independent bookstore chain's booksellers will help you out. That's their job because this is the store's policy: If there's a book the store's distributor has, Tattered Cover will sell it -- no matter how offensive the individual salesperson finds the content.

So why were some calling for a Tattered Cover boycott?

Tattered Cover's store policy-rooted commitment to free speech came under question on social media this past weekend when author Jennifer Sey tweeted the following about the shop's supposed refusal to sell her book, "Levi's Unbuttoned: The Woke Mob Took My Job but Gave Me My Voice.":

The message that her book had been censored spread fast.  Even 2022 Republican governor candidate Heidi Ganahl, a fan of the book, wrote the following:

After Tattered Cover CEO Kwame Spearman, a Denver mayoral candidate, pointed out that the book was on the shelf at Tattered Cover, the author left the Twitter post up for hours.

We went to the store to check for ourselves. On Saturday, there were two copies of "Levi's Unbuttoned," according to a bookseller.

By Sunday, one had been sold and another was on the shelves at the Aspen Grove branch for anybody who wanted it -- right next to books of all political persuasions, fiction and nonfiction alike.

Sey has not responded to requests for comment or help getting in touch with her friend who was denied the book.

She did post: "I know I always buy from local independent bookstores. But maybe I won't."

Eventually, after causing a raft of people to say they would boycott Tattered Cover, Sey conceded that the store was selling her book.

Sey linked to Tattered Cover.

Author Jennifer Sey tweeted that Tattered Cover was not selling her book, "Levi's Unbuttoned." The store was. Here is the book pictured at the store on Feb. 26, 2023.
Kyle Harris / Denverite

But it was too late. The misinformation had gone viral, drumming up publicity for Sey's book and calls to boycott the bookstore.

The post had been viewed at least 186,000 times, retweeted at least 136 times and quoted at least 27 times.

"When a bookstore practices censorship, that's your signal to take your business elsewhere," noted one Twitter user.

"Tattered Cover visits were a highlight of my life in Denver. Woke destroys everything it touches. Farewell to another old favorite," wrote another.

"I'll never spend my money there again. Thanks for the heads up," wrote a third.

The post in which Sey conceded Tattered Cover does sell "Levi's Unbuttoned" had just 13,500 views, five retweets and seven comments Monday morning.

So what's this book about?

According to the book's website, the author was "on track to become the first woman CEO of Levi Strauss & Co." Then she spoke out against the closure of public schools in San Francisco during the pandemic.

"In response to her 'wrongthink,' management gave her a choice: shut up or leave," the website states. "She decided that defending at-risk children was more important than the job that she loved, and so she resigned. After more than two decades at the company, she gave up her professional future in order to retain her voice."

Here's the book's lesson: "The more Americans who stand up to 'woke-ism,' the better chance we have at creating a truly equitable and inclusive society. Principles and integrity matter. Ultimately, they matter more than anything else."

Spearman, who's running for mayor and has been making media appearances on conservative talk radio, the alt-weekly Westword and at Denverite, confirmed that Tattered Cover is still pro-Free Speech.

"Tattered Cover's history has always included authors with different perspectives to be on our shelves," he said. "We value authors and customers of all backgrounds to be a part of our community.

"And case in point -- this book was on our shelves," said Spearman, who is currently on leave from his post as CEO.

Kwame Spearman, owner and CEO of the Tattered Cover, stands in the bookstore's Colfax Avenue location. Jan. 10, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Editor's note: This headline has been updated with the correct title of the book.

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