Social justice is creeping into the world of Young Adult book publishing as intersectional feminists position themselves as censors and the arbiters of acceptable content. It poses a danger to the lucrative industry that spawned Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and innumerable others.
In the world of YA fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy, mobs of social justice culture cops have taken to bullying authors and publishers whom they deem “problematic,” which may affect the creative output—as well as the bottom line—of independent writers.
In an in-depth feature for Vulture, Kat Rosenfield highlighted the bullying controversy surrounding Laurie Forest’s debut fantasy novel “The Black Witch,” which is under fire for racist content. Reception for the novel had been widely positive prior to its release, but a 9,000-word review from Shauna Sinyard, a blogger and self-described “queer author assistant for hire” (in her now-deleted Twitter profile) killed the hype when it gained traction through social media.
Sinyard described the book as “the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,” discouraging others from reading it. “It’s racist, ableist, homophobic, and is written with no marginalized people in mind,” wrote the reviewer.
Her tweet asking others to share her review went viral. The review spread to Tumblr, where it received over 6,000 shares. The now-viral Tumblr post called on progressives to bombard its Goodreads review page with low scores and demand its publisher, Harlequin Teen, to pull it from shelves.
“Boost everyone who mentions the racism in this book. Inform people who plan on reading it of the racism,” the instructions continued. “Be an ally to people of color and do this for us.”
On Twitter, Sinyard bragged in a now-deleted post that over 20,000 people read her scathing review of The Black Witch.
Many attacked the book based on the charges Sinyard leveled against it, including its representation of LGBT issues. Detractors claim that straight white authors need to stay in their lane, in contradiction to repeated calls for increased LGBT representation in the media.
Despite taking a beating on social media, the book managed to land itself on the top spot on one of Amazon’s sales charts. However, publishing professionals who spoke to Rosenfield say that they worry about what the future might bring—and expressed fear of speaking out against the mob. Publishing professionals who refused to be named told Rosenfield that the mob will become powerful enough to shake-up the industry.
Kat Rosenfield is now taking heat from the outraged mob, who are demanding the Vulture piece be pulled for highlighting the controversy. They claim it’s an attack on marginalized people.
The mobs may not have much of an impact on the industry’s bottom line at the moment, but if nothing else, fear of reprisal will dissuade novelists from writing about certain themes or fully exercising their creative abilities. That’s hardly acceptable.