Problematic Authors

As a part of the greater community and a member of the human race, it’s important to identify those who use their power to spread views that are exclusive and harmful.  Unfortunately, many authors, including some whose stories are dear to our hearts, have done or said something destructive to minorities or and other vulnerable parties.

I do not accept this behavior.  We must call out those authors who have created pain for both my fellow creators and other people across the globe.

I will never, never shame someone for reading a book by one of these authors.  That’s not who I am, and I understand each person’s journey is different.  I am holding myself accountable to label any author who has shown themselves to be problematic in my reviews, in order to address these unacceptable actions and make others aware of their transgressions.

While many people have already offloaded works by these authors, I encourage others who wants to read their books to borrow (not buy) them.  It is the actual least we can do to support our marginalized friends.  Additionally, I have included a couple links/author to charitable organizations you can donate to in order to offset their damage.

I am committing to donate to these organizations any time I read a book by a problematic author*.

Please note:  I am only including non-apologetic authors on this page.  While many, many people have said terrible things, there are also those who retract their statements and seek to learn and be better.  I believe in forgiveness and growth.  Unfortunately, there are too many who do not see the damage they cause and instead stand their ground and continue to hurt others.

This list is incomplete – I will continue to build slowly as I research authors in the course of my reading.  I will add new authors as I discover them.

Look for this banner on my reviews, as well as an explanation of the author’s transgressions, my chosen charity, and a link back here.

*page created June 2020 – this pact starts now.

Sherman Alexie

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Harassment, Racism
    • Proof:  Alexie didn’t even try to deny this himself, issuing a statement in 2018.  While it’s not the most satisfying apology, the self-awareness is there.  Worth mentioning, also, are Alexie’s comments about mixed individuals and native Hawaiians.  There’s a whole lot of points about his problematic nature in this article.
    • #OwnVoices Response:  One of the standout pieces accusing Alexie of harassment is Anne Ursu’s article on Medium.  Linda Gruno also shares a powerful piece on her personal experience with Alexie and his behavior toward her race.
    • Offset:  Even though Alexie is an important Native voice, it should not be at the expense of other Native voices, and his behavior against women is unacceptable.  Therefore, to offset Alexie’s behavior, I suggest supporting the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center or Mending the Hoop.

Jay Asher

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Assault.
    • Proof:  News articles on this are pretty easy to find, but you can start with conversations in Bustle and Vanity Fair.
    • #OwnVoices Response:  Due to this particular allegation and topic, I am not seeking out responses from #OwnVoices readers.  I do not want to out anyone’s trauma.
    • Offset:  While something like this can never truly be repaired, please consider donating to the Joyful Heart Foundation or RAINN.

Isaac Asimov

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Harassment, Sexism.
    • Proof:  Asimov was never subtle about his sexual harassment – in fact, he’s advise others on how best to do it.  This Lit Hub article is a good (and unsettling) conversation about his lechery.  In fact, many articles mention it.  This one includes a discussion on why Asimov considered himself a feminist – because he didn’t want women to “drown the world in babies”.  And, of course, there was the 1962 lecture at the World Science Fiction Foundation called “The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching”.
    • #OwnVoices Response:  While the Orbit article linked above is a good example of a woman stomping her foot on Asimov’s behavior.  Additionally, he’s used so commonly as a blanket example in articles about sexual harassment, especially harassment at conventions, there’s no argument to be had about his bad behavior and the horrible precedent he set.
    • Offset:  Though many consider Asimov to be a part of the great science fiction tradition, women (especially those in elevated roles) are conspiculously missing from his work.  Therefore, to offset his bias, I recommend donating to the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) or Girls Who Code.

J.M.Barrie

  • Harmful Behavior: Racism, Sexism, Pedophilia (inconclusive), Manipulation.
    • Proof: As is often the case with classics, there’s no definitive proof of Barrie’s personality in these ways.  However, sexism in Barrie’s work speaks for itself and Tiger Lily, Wendy, and Tinker Bell are all troubling characterizations.  Other things, too, are quite obvious:  the Smithsonian magazine did a good job discussing his racism and Peter Pan’s adaptions throughout history.  And while pedophilia charges are unproved and conjecture, books like J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys discuss manipulation and mental/emotional abuse Barrie heaped upon the Llewelyn family.  Basically, Barrie wasn’t a nice guy.
    • Offset:  In honor of repairing the damaging caricature of Tiger Lily, may I suggest donating to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF)? … Also, just as a side comment, Barrie’s works are peculiar in that all rights to Peter Pan are retained by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity.  Any licensed purchase of Peter Pan-related items directly supports this charity (which is a good thing, and unlike any other author on this list).

Orson Scott Card

Roald Dahl

James Dashner

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Harassment, Manipulation, Gaslighting.
    • Proof:  Please see this article from The Guardian or this one from the New York Times, as two examples.  Random House dropped Dashner after allocations as well.
    • #OwnVoices Response:  Due to this particular allegation and topic, I am not seeking out responses from #OwnVoices readers.  I do not want to out anyone’s trauma.
    • Offset:  Please consider donating to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to support victims of sexual assault and harassment and end sexual violence in our communities.

Daniel Handler (also: Lemony Snicket)

  • Harmful Behavior: Racism, Sexism.

J. K. Rowling (also: Robert Galbraith)

  • Harmful Behavior: Transphobia, Ableism.

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Authors to Note as Having Problematic Pasts

So here’s the thing.  I would like to acknowledge that there are authors who have made mistakes, but grown and learned.  For me, these are complicated people.  Many, many members of the community would give a blanket ban on these authors and I support their choice to do that.

I understand and accept that I am so privileged to be able to say this, but if people seem like they have grown, or if we cannot entirely prove their problematic elements based on personal action but rather inferred themes in their books… I try to believe in the best in people and forgive them.  Forgive them until they are proven guilty and I cannot forgive them anymore.

This is a privilege I have as a white cis hetero American woman.  I understand that the ability to dismiss these wrongs is very much a privilege.  I am still listing these authors here for full visibility.

Tamora Pierce

Rainbow Rowell

  • 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.
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