This is a list of authors who have been harmful in the past, or have had incidents where they have been ignorant to their behavior and privilege in such a way that they have hurt communities.
Please note that while this is my own personal rating system, many people would instead place these authors on the Code Red list and avoid their work altogether. I encourage you to react in the way that feels best to you. This page is here to educate, and you may take your own actions as you deem fit.
Authors on this list may have spoken out on social media and not apologized. They may have written or said problematic things, and later apologized. They may have spoken on a panel or behaved in such a way that showed their privilege and ignorance. While these people are not actively working to tear down marginalized communities, it cannot be ignored that they have done things that have hurt them.
On my reviews, look out for this banner:
Clicking the banner will link back to this page and allow the reader to look into the author in question and further understand their behaviors and choose whether on not they wish to read the author’s book(s).
Adichie, Chiamando Ngozi
- In 2017, Adichie gave an interview to Channel 4 wherein she stated, “When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans women are trans women.” This statement fails to specifically include trans women under the umbrella of women, singling them out. Although she apologized, Adichie has been criticized for ostracizing a minor group.
- A 2020 essay she wrote attacks other writers for trying to cancel her for being a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. While the writers are not named, OluTimehin Adegbeye and Akwaeke Emezi came forward and claimed the resemblance. This essay attempted to address the accusations explain intent while not correcting them.
- In 2020, she told The Guardian that Rowling’s famous transphobic essay was “a perfectly reasonable piece”.
I’m keeping an eye on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for a possible move to Code Red. The status of the LGBTQ+ community in Africa is fragile, and it’s still illegal to identify in Nigeria. As a Nigerian woman, her words do especial harm to that community. The conversation still seems to revolve around a single incident (and revisiting that time), but I would hope to see Adichie try to do something to make reparations to those she hurt.
- Jim Butcher is most often called out for his writing in The Dresden Files. The books are criticized repeatedly by readers for being homophobic, even when they say they’re trying not to be.
- Sex, sex acts, sexual assaults of all levels, and sexism is rampant in both The Dresden Files and Codex Alera. There are discussions here, here, here, and here that include conversations about his portrayal of women and his use of rape in the books, and it’s easy to find many more online.
- If you’re looking for a good overview of a lot of the recurring issues in Butcher’s books, Ilaeria has an eloquent posts that talks about sexism, use of rape, the overly heterosexual feel of the books, and cultural appropriation in their series review of The Dresden Files.
- Notably, in 2011 Jim Butcher argued publicly with a reader who had a negative response to extremely inaccurate and subtly racist portrayal of Chicago. The original transcript of the argument can be found on Lucia Tanaka’s LiveJournal. There is also an interesting reflection on this event and other issues in the books at Jaded Musings.
- And, of course, there’s the whole COVID-19 denial thing, and here’s a conversation from Reddit about the event.
Criado Perez, Caroline
- In her book, Invisible Women, Criado-Perez separates the world strictly into two genders, thus failing to recognize the validity of transgender, non-binary, gender fluid, and other peoples.
- She has discussed her dislike of the term “cis” and rejects it as a descriptor.
- Criado-Perez supports transgender females in so far as they are victims of violence from men, but never apologizes or publicly supports trans women outside this specific situation, being hyper-focused on her own trans-exclusive radical feminism.
I’m going to be keeping an eye on Criado-Perez… her rhetoric is right on the edge of Code Red, but as far as I can find, she’s not actively pushing an agenda or using her voice to tear down transgender individuals the way that Rowling is. This entry may be upgraded in the future, depending on behavior.
- Crichton’s novel Rising Sun is strongly criticized for being racist against the Japanese.
- Terminal Man has passages which compare homosexual men to “the dregs of society. This book also includes addition homophobic and ableist language.
- In general, he used his platform to uplift his own personal beliefs and conspiracy theories, including petty disagreements and to disclaim global warming.
- Many of his books include sexist, racist, or ableist language and have aged poorly.
Crichton lands in Code Orange because most of his books contain the truly harmful elements rather than interviews, and his death in 2008 leaves him as a relic of a bygone time without opportunity to either disprove or condemn with certainty. For someone who wrote compellingly about science, his anti-science blather was harmful at the time, which brings him above just Code Yellow – writing books with problematic elements – and into Orange.
Neil Gaiman’s transgressions fall in two specific categories – transphobia and racism. Both are largely written, but his reactions to them merit some extra scrutiny.
- In his Sandman comic issue ‘A Game of You’, Wanda is a pre-op transgender woman. While written in the 80s, the issue has been widely called out for transphobic material. When first asked, Gaiman vehemently denied this claim and instead suggests the world was groundbreakingly diverse for its time. In a recent acknowledgement of how things could be done better, Gaiman has announced he wants trans writers deeply involved when that issue is adapted for Netflix.
- American Gods is a book that did not age well. Vulture calls it out with concern around the time the Stars adaptation was revealed, but reading the first ten or so pages of the book reveals stereotypes and racist language easy for any reader to discern.
- In an interview, Gaiman made a comment about “a few dead Indians” when describing why he didn’t think the Americas would be a goo setting for The Graveyard Book. Rightfully called out on the American Indians In Children’s Literature Blog, Gaiman and founder Debbie Reese go back and forth on Gaiman’s initial comment and published apology and Reese’s thoughts on the matter.
While not Gaiman himself, it’s important to note his wife Amanda Palmer has an extremely problematic history.
- In 2016, Michael Grant argued with with Dr. Debbie Reese about Native American representation in the Gone series. While this is a long post, I encourage reading it – there’s some frankly depressing dismissal of issues. The lack of commitment on Lana’s heritage (she was perceived as Native American, then in this post Grant says he considered her Latinx, and in later books in the series she’s referred to as white) is odd as well.
- Grant himself took to Medium to write a flame article about all the people attacking his diversity poor diversity/lack of diversity. While his comments about white people being more offended than diverse readers seems to be a common mood even today (the article is from 2015), it’s never classy to create an unsafe place to have these discussions online.
- A couple sources have pointed out the ableist portrayal of neurodivergent characters in Grant’s books.
As a note, Michael Grant has authored and co-authored well over 100 books and the only ones I’ve found criticism on are his Gone series. While I personally do appreciate the diversity he included, there’s a bit of a white savior addendum to all of it that sits wrong with me.
- Green consistently writes the sexist stereotype of the “manic pixie dream girl”. This character is vapid and selfish and creates an unhealthy relationship and a illusion that a woman’s usefulness is parallels to her relationship with a man.
- The Fault in Our Stars is a book about disabled characters written by a non-disabled author. While Isaac’s blindness is considered mostly alright (other than his use as comic relief), Green’s critics relate things which include inventing a miracle therapy for Hazel and Augustus’s energy in Amsterdam after his diagnosis,
- The kiss in the Anne Frank house is undisputedly a grave insult to the sacredness of the site. The Fault in Our Stars fails to address Frank as more than a metaphor for the characters suffering and in doing also dismisses the suffering of the Jewish people during the holocaust.
- Green has also been criticized on mistakes in his Crash Course on World History lecture on the Israel-Palestinian Conflict.
- Green’s “Pizza John” jokes and merchandise continue to exist and promote fatshaming.
- In An Abundance of Katherines, Green casually uses the term “kafir”, a deep insult in the Muslim community.
Green addressed several accusations against him on his now-empty Tumblr page. Also to note – I have intentionally left out the pedophilia and sexual assault accusations because they have been shown to be untrue and slanderous.
Amie Kaufman’s criticism comes mainly in the form of her constant support and collaboration with Jay Kristoff (see below). She has been called out for defending Kristoff’s racist Asian depictions and dismissing Asian voices on the matter.
Stephen King’s constant missteps and cringe-worthy villains land him in Code Orange because he’s like that uncle who doesn’t want to be that way, but damn it, you keep having to point out different racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. things he says (which he, to his credit, acknowledges. But still! Stahp.).
- In January 2020, King commented that diversity shouldn’t matter to art and was highly criticized. He backtracked on the comment and then tweeted in support of creating opportunities for marginalized voices in art. Journalists were vocal in their disappointment.
- His books are often called out for perpetuating racist stereotypes, particularly his constant use of the “Magical Negro” trope. This is particularly common in his earlier work, and with the TV revival, The Stand has been under scrutiny for this most recently.
- His writing of female characters has been criticized as being overly sexualized as well as using fear of periods as a theme in his writing (Carrie).
- The Stand has been criticized as being ableist (Pet Sematary too) as well as for queer-coding villains.
Also worth noting that King’s novels have also been praised for certain rep – not as an authority, but for its presence. He’s a complicated person to have on the list. I feel like he still has learning to do, but is not unwilling to try.
- Most of the conversation around Harper Lee is not about Lee herself, but her famous character Atticus Finch and his inherent racism. I have really mixed feelings about putting Lee on this list at all because after reading Go Set a Watchman, I feel as though I have broader insight into her intent with the Finch family and I believe they are racist on purpose, and still meant to be a mirror to white folks who don’t get that they’re racist too. It nevertheless stands that Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird falls heavily under the White Savior trope and his behavior has inspired thousands of Americans to a self-centered reaction to racism, and that’s harmful.
- Harper Lee uses the n-word in the text – as a privileged white woman, this is completely unacceptable, regardless of the intent.
Montgomery, L. M. (Historical)
- Native characters in Tannis of the Flats, including many others, are portrayed as “less than” and referred to as “half-breeds”. They are not seriously considered as friends or romantic partners. Tannis of the Flats perpetuates racist stereotypes and dehumanization of Native and Indigenous people in detail.
- An Italian character in Kilmeny of the Orchard is considered evil and set up as a villain because of his race.
- Offensive language and racist writing toward the Black community is used in A Tangled Web.
- Other than negative representation, Montgomery’s books lack racial diversity. The Journal of Montgomery Studies has a living list of essays and resources discussing Montgomery’s books and themes of colonialism, systemic racism, and intolerance.
- Ableist language is used in A Tangled Web.
- Tamora Pierce has been known to defend problematic depictions of POC characters. Her own books, particularly those in the 80s, also show problematic depictions.
In recent years and her newer books, you can see evidence that Pierce has grown as a person and become more socially conscious, including raising money for Black Lives Matter and speaking out against J. K. Rowling. Nevertheless, her original infractions should be noted.
- Not problematic in the same sense as some of the other people on this list, but it would be remiss if I failed to point out that Anne Rice has been known to attack negative reviews. Particularly when she feels personally attacked. Still, as though it needs saying again, reviews are for readers not writers and there should not be abuse on either side. Additionally, she spoke in defense against the treatment of Paula Deen when she was revealed as racist. I was unable to find anything else specifically about Anne Rice being racist, so I don’t feel I have enough factual evidence to move her higher on this list for this point.
- I’ve danced around how to include Rainbow Rowell in this list, because I am well aware of the deep criticism of Eleanor & Park, and I also know she’s more-or-less stayed silent rather than address it. I recommend checking out this article for a more qualified response to the racism in Park’s characterization. Rainbow Rowell is on a different level than the authors above the break. She needs to hold herself accountable for Park, but other than this piece of fiction that’s been floating around for 7 years, she’s not actively out there causing pain like many of the other more problematic authors on this list.
- In 2007, Brandon Sanderson wrote an essay responding to Rowling’s revelation that Dumbledore was gay, in which he allegedly spoke about resisting urges toward same-sex relations and declaimed same-sexmarriage. While this essay has been since removed from his site (thus the “allegedly” – my information on this is second-hand), there are multiple references and responses out there. This is… tricky. In the time since, he’s responded saying that “marriage” should be a religious term, and he supports the LGBTQ+ community’s desire for civil unions (point 2 in this article). The only written response that I could find from Sanderson specifically is in this Reddit thread, which speaks mostly about having civil conversations and his own struggle between his spirituality (he is Mormon) and the world. He gets points for a respectful response, and in this case I am choosing to interpret the discourse as growth.
- As a note, he does has an intensive FAQ on his website, which includes a response about gay characters. This page has a link to the Dumbledore essay, but it is defunct.
- In 2006, Smith wrote a review of the film Transamerica for the Telegraph, which included ignorant and transphobic language. While I was unable to find a recurrence of this sentiment since 2006, I was also unable to find any retractions or apologies.
- In 2015, Maggie Stiefvater sat on a panel called “Writing the Other”. While she assumed she was asked to speak because of her experience in mental health as well as her experience in research writing out of her knowledge base, she did not rescind her seat when the community exploded at the audacity. B. R. Sanders wrote a good, thought-out reaction post to the controversy and discussion surrounding it.
- In The Raven King, racist comments are made about a character’s ethnicity, and this was never rectified. Review Sue from Hollywood News Source states the situation succinctly and effectively in her Goodreads review. Additionally, Scha Zakir calls for a boycott of Stiefvater and authors like her for this behavior in an article on Affinity.
- The book community was outraged at the announcement of All The Crooked Saints, a Latinx-culture-heavy standalone novel written outside her lane. It brought in many 1-star reviews before ARCs were even available. While post-publication readers are less critical in the majority, the 1-star reactions are still worth mentioning.
- Robin Talley has written more than one book with non-white POV characters, writing outside her lane. Both Lies We Tell Ourselves and Our Own Private Universe have marginalized voices as their MC, but Talley is white. She has used sensitivity readers.
- What We Left Behind has been criticized for its genderqueer rep.
Last Updated: 4/24/2022