top of page

"As the battle over censorship and book banning rages on, Claudia Johnson helps us understand why it’s more important than ever to keep books on the shelves. Told with passion, humor, and an enduring love of literature, this is a must-read for all book lovers.” 

– Judy Blume 


Pulitzer Prize Nominated


Winner of the 1993 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award for Claudia Johnson’s extraordinary efforts to restore banned literary classics from Florida classrooms. 


Part memoir, part courtroom drama, and part primer for advocates fighting assaults on free speech, Stifled Laughter is the story of one woman's efforts to restore literary classics to the classrooms of rural north Florida. Updated with a new introduction, Johnson's honest, often hilarious, first-person account of censorship in its modern form provides valuable insight into why the books children read at school remains a controversial issue, and why free speech in America remains a precarious right. 


For anyone who has ever wondered just how far those who seek to ban books will go in limiting free expression, this book proves once again that the personal is political. At a time when book banning has reached new heights, parents and teachers, writers, and readers will all benefit from Johnson's experience and be touched by her spirit and courage. 


Hear Claudia Johnson talk about STIFLED LAUGHTER

Stifled Laughter: One Woman's Story About Fighting Censorship

  • Claudia Johnson is a nationally recognized advocate for free speech and social justice. In 1993, she was honored with the inaugural PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, presented by Paul Newman, for her “extraordinary efforts to restore banned literary classics to Florida classrooms”—and again in the 2022 “PEN America at 100” exhibition at the New York Historical Society. She continues to fight book banning, recently helping reinstate banned books to Virginia Beach classrooms and libraries.   

    Her second memoir, Hurtling Toward Happiness: A Mother and Teenage Son’s Road Trip from Blues to Bonding in a Really Small Car, was praised by the New York Times for its “quick pace and energetic dialogue that shows genuine warmth between mother and son.” Her screenwriting text, Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect—now in its fifth/Twentieth Anniversary edition—introduced the narrative theory that human connection is as essential as conflict in the stories we tell. Her civil rights documentary, The Other Side of Silence: The Untold Story of Ruby McCollum, was awarded the Gold Jury Prize at Seattle’s Social Justice Film Festival and Best Florida Documentary at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. She is a member of the founding faculty of the FSU Film School and also taught screenwriting at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. 

    She has coauthored two books with her longtime writing partner, Matt Stevens—A Christmas Belle, a sequel to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV, now in its second edition. And their cowritten screenplays have been optioned and named finalists in multiple competitions, including Final Draft’s Big Break Screenwriting Contest and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. 

Related Products