Bestselling feminist writer Roxane Gay—who authored the books Bad Feminist and An Untamed State— pulled her forthcoming book, How to Be Heard, from the Simon & Schuster lineup after the publishing house’s decision to ink a reported $250,000 book deal with reviled and controversial conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
Yiannopoulos, who was banned from Twitter for spearheading the siege of racial abuse hurled at SNL star and actress Leslie Jones, is a prolific troll with reported ties to the white supremacist alt-right movement that emerged shortly after the 2016 presidential election, and is a writer and editor for conservative website Brietbart (home to shrill Hexenbiest, Tomi Lahren); and is notorious for eschewing all things liberal as well as spewing xenophobic, racist, and misogynist rhetoric; inciting protests and violence everywhere his hostile cross-country speaking tour lands.
Roxane Gay’s pointed stance against Simon & Schuster’s decision, to distance herself from Yiannopoulos, is apt considering the scope of her work. Gay told BuzzFeed News that she told her agent, Maria Massie, to pull her project from the publishing house last weekend because she couldn’t “in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo,” and that she wasn’t interested in doing business with a publisher that’s eager to provide Milo Yiannopoulos with an even wider platform to spread his vitriol, despite the publisher’s assurance that there would be no hate in the book.
While many writers in the literary community have expressed disappointment over Simon & Schuster’s plan to stand by their decision to publish Milo’s book, Roxane expressed gratitude to be in the position to protest and take an active stand against hate and the mediums that enable it, telling BuzzFeed,
“I’m putting my money where my mouth is. And to be clear, this isn’t about censorship. Milo has every right to say what he wants to say, however distasteful I and many others find it to be. He doesn’t have a right to have a book published by a major publisher but he has, in some bizarre twist of fate, been afforded that privilege. So be it. I’m not interested in doing business with a publisher willing to grant him that privilege. I am also fortunate enough to be in a position to make this decision. I recognize that other writers aren’t and understand that completely.”
Roxane’s boycott of Simon & Schuster follows one by the editor of Chicago Review of Books, who, earlier this month, vowed not to cover any books published by Simon & Schuster in 2017 and penned an op-ed on the Guardian’s website, reminding people that hate-speech like Yiannopoulos’s “targets racial, religious and cultural minorities – invites discrimination. It arguably encourages people such as Omar Mateen and Dylann Roof to think of entire groups of people as less than human. And in his 2012 book The Harm in Hate Speech, legal philosopher Jeremy Waldron writes that hate speech sends a clear message to its victims: ‘Don’t be fooled into thinking you are welcome here.’ ”
As President Donald Trump and his administration continue to further divide the country and businesses have become empowered and seem far too eager to fund and expand platforms for emerging voices in hate speech, more and more people are acting and, also, putting their money where their mouths are; supporting businesses and organizations that support social justice.
Roxane Gay’s project still doesn’t have a new publisher, but here’s to hoping that a reputable publishing house promptly picks it up.
Tiffani Jones is the creator and writer of Coffee Rhetoric, a blog about women, pop-culture, film and race. A frequent contributor to both print and digital media platforms, she is also the Digital Content Editor for Northend Agent’s. Tiffani has offered commentary on HuffPost Live, in the NY Times, and on WNPR in another life. More info about her work can be found on www.coffeerhetoric.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Coffey0072