Feminist essayist and fiction writer Roxane Gay was supposed to deliver How to Be Heard to TED Books (an imprint within the parent company of Simon & Schuster), "this month." But according to a statement she provided to Buzzfeed, "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."
Yiannopoulos's book Dangerous is set to be published by Threshold Editions (a conservative imprint also owned by Simon & Schuster) next month. Simon & Schuster's CEO wrote letter to all their authors earlier this week, reassuring them that "neither Threshold Editions nor any other of our imprints will publish books that we think will incite hatred, discrimination or bullying."
But Gay isn't having it—and good for her. As she explains:
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.
Earlier today in the office, we were talking about this news as it broke, and a very smart colleague of mine who shall remain unnamed (and wasn't Sean Nelson, by the way), asked: "I wonder why she even accepted publication in the first place? That imprint has been publishing Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc. for years."
1. This isn't exactly true. TED Books has not published anything by Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, so far as Google knows, although Threshold Editions has published titles by both. Point is, an imprint is not the same as a parent company. Besides, almost all of publishing is just six gigantic companies, and any one worth its salt has published a wide variety of writers, the wideness of the variety necessarily meaning that not all of those writers are going to agree with each other. All the better if they don't! The Stranger publishes writers who disagree with each other all the time. (Do NOT get me started on Heidi Groover's opinion of Hamilton.)
2. I saw poet and visual artist Benjamin Zeller Bellas give a lecture on appropriation anxiety at Bennington Writing Seminars two weeks ago, and he touched on something germane to this discussion. He said, "We're all born with a different position in the world, and the important thing is how you use your position." Very few people are in the position Roxane Gay has found herself in—about to publish a book on an imprint owned by Simon & Schuster. She decided to use her position to make a statement, as is her right. Pointing out that Simon & Schuster also published Ayn Rand would be beside the point (unless Gay wanted to make a statement about Ayn Rand, which would also be well within her rights). Plus, Gay will surely pay a price for pulling her book at the last minute. And yet, all this attention will surely make her book more valuable, too. Good for her. Lord knows it's good for Milo.
The Stranger reached out to TED Books and Threshold Editions for a comment, but didn't immediately hear back. As for Gay, she's said all she wants to say.
I guess the news out. Everythjng I need to say is in my statement. I can afford to take this stand. Not everyone can. Remember that.
— roxane gay (@rgay) January 25, 2017