Despite Simon & Schuster’s reassurances that alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos’s book would not contain hate speech, author Roxane Gay has chosen to pull her upcoming book from the publisher, saying she “just couldn’t bring [her]self” to turn it in. The book, called How to Be Heard, was supposed to be published under TED Books (a Simon & Schuster imprint) in 2018.
She’s hardly the first author to express their concerns. When news broke that Simon & Schuster had offered Yiannopoulos, who recently mocked a transgender student during one of his controversial college campus visits, a $250,000 book deal, Simon & Schuster faced a wave of backlash from authors and artists including Leslie Jones, who was the target of an online harassment campaign coordinated by Milo’s followers. “You still help them spread their hate,” Jones tweeted at the publisher. And Gay’s response is along similar lines.
“To be clear, this isn’t about censorship,” she wrote in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “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.” Read her complete 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. I have not placed the book elsewhere. I do hope the book is published someday.