She’s Bout It: Roxane Gay Ends Book Deal With Simon & Schuster After They Gave One To A Bigot

January 26, 2017  |  

You can talk about it or you can be about it. And author Roxane Gay is serious about the issue of normalizing hate. In case you were confused, she’s not about that life. And she literally put her money where her mouth is.

When she learned that her publisher Simon & Schuster had offered alt-righter Milo Yiannopoulous a book deal with a $250,000 advance, she ended her relationship with the company. For those of you who don’t know, Yiannopoulous is a blogger for Breitbart, known for his racist, anti-Muslim, sexist opinions. He designed a scholarship specifically for White males, and he gave speech where he explained why the Black Lives Matter movement was a sham to get more money, arguing that Black Lives don’t matter to BLM at all. I could link you to the video but after watching more than half of it, I would hate to be responsible for giving his YouTube page another hit. And finally, he was banned from Twitter after he launched a full out attack against “Saturday Night Live” and Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.

But weeks after he was kicked off of Twitter, Simon & Schuster offered him the book deal. There were quite a few people who questioned the decision. So much so that Simon & Schuster had to release a statement.

“We have always published books by a wide range of authors with greatly varying and frequently controversial opinions,” Simon & Schuster said. It asked readers to “withhold judgment until they have had a chance to read the actual contents of the book.”

I’m tired of folks asking us to give these racist, hateful people a chance. Just today, I saw a quote from Nikki Giovanni that read, “My heart breaks for the next generation with these fools in the white house. Asking us to give Trump a chance is like asking Jews to give Hitler a chance.”

She went on to say even more fiery things, but this quote, in isolation, is spot on.

Anyway, back to Gay. She was disappointed in Simon & Schuster and said of them offering Yiannopoulous a book deal, “I’m not interested in doing business with a publisher willing to grant him that privilege.”

She told The Associated Press, that she will not be releasing her book How to Be Heard, scheduled to come out in 2018, through the company’s TED imprint.

Gay said that Yiannopoulous had every right to express his ideas and opinions but that did not mean that he deserved a book deal with a major publisher.

She told BuzzFeed, “I can’t in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo. So I told my agent over the weekend to pull the project.”

You can read her full statement below.

When the announcement about Milo’s book first came out, I was relieved because I thought I didn’t have a book with Simon & Schuster and tweeted something to that effect. Then I remembered my TED Book and that TED is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. I was supposed to turn the book in this month and I kept thinking about how egregious it is to give someone like Milo a platform for his blunt, inelegant hate and provocation. I just couldn’t bring myself to turn the book in. My editor emailed me last week and I kept staring at that email in my inbox and finally over the weekend I asked my agent to pull the book.

Though TED Books and Threshold are vastly different imprints, they both reside within Simon & Schuster and so I guess 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.

The editor of TED Books is Michelle Quint. I don’t think Michelle is an employee of Simon & Schuster. She works for TED. She is, from my experience thus far, smart, kind, patient, and committed to putting good books into the world.

But Gay is not alone. More than 100 Simon & Schuster writers have denounced the deal. While the publisher didn’t respond to Gay’s comments, CEO Carolyn Reidy sent a letter to Simon & Schuster authors saying that the publisher does not condone and would not release hate speech.

Gay noted that since the book is not coming out through S&S, she hopes that it will be published someday.

We’re sure she won’t have a problem with that.

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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