The allegations of sexual harassment against author Junot Díaz have left booksellers pondering how to handle the author’s books and whether or not to pull them from their shelves. PW contacted numerous booksellers across the country to discuss this issue and all expressed their concern and support for victims of Diaz’s actions. A preponderance of stores, several of which chose not to comment on the record, have chosen to continue selling the books, at least for the time being. A similar survey conducted by the Boston Globe of stores around the Boston area found the same result, although The Harvard Book Store took down a faceout display of his children's book, Islandborn.
Díaz, whose books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Drown and This Is How You Lose Her, is among the most visible and admired members of the Latinx literary community.
“It is a hard situation all around, it saddens us,” said Valerie Kohler, owner of Blue Willow Bookstore in Houston, who hosted Díaz in April for his tour in support of Islandborn (Dial), a children’s picture book written by Díaz and illustrated by Leo Espinosa. At the event, Blue Willow sold 300 books as well as 75 copies of the Spanish edition. “These incidents that keep happening are saddening to all of us as booksellers," said Kohler. "It’s a bit early to see what the fallout. I have yet to pull any books of anybody who has been discussed in the media in the last six to eight months. We just have to wait and see what the customers think as they will be the ultimate arbiter."
At Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia, Díaz’s books also remain on sale. The owner, Sheila Avelin, said that while they will not pull his books, he "is not someone we will continue to handsell." In response to the allegations of abuse against various authors, the store has put up a special display highlighting titles by writers from marginalized communities. “We're going to try as booksellers to compensate for the damage done in the industry to women, Queers, Native, and Latinx writers who expected to be supported by writers who already had their foot in the door, but instead were damaged," Avelin said.
Among the stores that have pulled Díaz’s booksare Women & Children First in Chicago, Quill Books & Beverage in Westbrook, Maine and Duende District bookstore in Washington D.C. Duende District posted several tweets making the announcement, ending with, “To academia, to the pub industry, to booksellers: ENOUGH. Enough of supporting this abuse, stop allowing this to happen & hiding it & hurting so many women writers/illustrators, especially WoC, who have to deal with this in the classroom, at readings, in meetings, EVERYWHERE.”
In a statement to PW, Jamie Thomas, the manager of Women & Children First in Chicago, said: "Junot Diaz is the latest author whose books we've decided to pull from our shelves, but sadly we are realizing day by day that he will probably not be the last. As much as we've been disheartened by the accusations leveled against so many voices in the publishing world, I'm grateful that we are finally coming to a place in the culture that survivors of abuse and assault feel supported in bringing their stories to the public."
Thomas added while removing an author's book for sale "is the least we can do," she noted that what the store is grappling with is "what comes next? What can we do as booksellers and members of the community to further the conversation about the pervasiveness of harassment and assault in both publishing and the American culture at large? It will continue to be one of the largest issues facing us as a booksellers and feminists in the foreseeable future."
This story has been updated, to clarify that Harvard Bookstore took down a faceout display of Diaz's children's book, Islandborn, but continues to sell that and Diaz's other books.