Figuratively speaking at least.
It seems the “right thinking” folks on social media have targeted yet another YA author. Kosoko Jackson has chosen to withdraw his novel after facing “backlash for centering a story about the Kosovo War around two non-Muslim Americans.”
Some early reviews heralded the book for telling a YA love story about two young, queer men of color, while other reviews expressed outrage that Jackson used a devastating war as a backdrop to tell that story without enough historical understanding.
Instead of standing his ground, Jackson caved to the pressure of social media. In doing so, he issued a statement via Twitter apologizing and saying he was withdrawing the book from publication. So the bullies win again. This time, however, they are eating one of their own. If this keeps up, there won’t be any books, at least no entertaining books, out there in the YA genre because authors will be to worried about ticking off all the points on the “approved list of topics, subjects, messages, etc” to actually write anything but the message.
Publishers Weekly had this to say about Jackson’s book and his decision:
Although the book had been positioned as an #OwnVoices LGBTQ romance, discussion of the novel’s problematic representation of the Kosovo War, genocide, and Muslim characters
BTW, the bullying must have been bad because, according to PW, Jackson set his website to “maintenance mode”.
While dealing with the hurt my debut has caused and coming up with a plan of action of how to fix the pain I’ve caused with my words, my site is currently under maintenance. I’ll have an update soon.
Thanks for your patience and for those who I hurt with my words, especially the Muslim readers, teens, and community members, I’m sorry.
When did we become a society with such fragile feelings and egos an author can’t write a novel that might–MIGHT–hurt someone’s feelings?
This isn’t the first time the mob–and make no mistake, it is a mob–has struck out at YA authors, demanding they remove their book from publication. The last time happened mere weeks ago. Amélie Wen Zhao withdrew her debut novel, Blood Heir, from publication due to claims of racism. Reason said it best when it wrote the social justice mob demanded Blood Heir be canceled because it wasn’t “woke enough”.
2017 saw Laura Moriarty facing much the same sort of backlash from the “community cops”.
When is it going to end?
With either the end of the genre or with publishers actually backing their authors and authors deciding the few dozen or so vocal naysayers aren’t going to control the entire genre. There is a reason why so many authors are going indie these days. There is a reading public out there that wants well-written, entertaining books that have a message. But that message doesn’t beat them over the head and it isn’t at the expense of the story. Good guys can be white, black, or purple polka dot and so can bad guys.
What those “community cops” forget is that they may think they hold the power today but tomorrow it will be someone else and they will be on the outside looking in. How do you think they will respond when they are on the receiving end of the demands to remove their work from publication? Can you imagine the howls and cries of “Unfair! Unfair!”? Yet they have no problem crucifying authors on social media now for simply doing what writers are supposed to do–write.
Here’s hoping justice comes to both sides and soon.