Backlash to Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions's deal with controversial Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos continues to mount in the weeks after the announcement that Yiannopoulos reportedly received a $250,000 advance for his book, Dangerous, which will publish on March 14. While free speech organizations have condemned boycotts of the publisher promised by some bookstores and media outlets, and other bookstores will only order the book if it is specially requested, a new protest has popped up within S&S's own ranks, as more than 160 children's book authors and illustrators have signed a letter to S&S CEO and president Carolyn Reidy protesting the deal.
The letter, which was released Thursday morning, was initially organized by S&S children's book creators who are clients of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, but has grown to encompass writers and illustrators across the industry. Signees include Newbery, Caldecott, and National Book Award honorees plus Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who, according to the release, texted his signature from India.
"This is not an issue of advocating or suppressing free speech, as Mr. Yiannopoulos has a broad internet broadcasting platform and the support of many extremist organizations and publications," the letter reads. "His voice is certainly being heard, and it is a voice of hate that stirs its followers to emotional, verbal, and physical violence directed at anyone who disagrees or speaks to the contrary."
It continues: "As Simon & Schuster authors and illustrators who are already published, with books in the release pipeline, with contracts in place, we do not have to quietly accept or assent to this “Gleichschaltung,” this getting in line with fascism and making it mainstream."
An S&S spokesperson said that the company received the letter and that the publisher "appreciate[s] and respect[s] the feelings and opinions of our authors."
Among the signatories are Cassandra Clare, Laurie Halse Anderson, Christian Robinson, Dan Santat, Marla Frazee, Ellen Hopkins, and Rachel Renée Russell.
“I believe these authors and illustrators were motivated by the belief that by banding together to make a public statement, they will provide courage to others who are faced with similar dilemmas,” agent Erin Murphy said in a statement. “Simon and Schuster is their publishing family. They could not remain silent.”
The full text of the letter is below.
To Carolyn Reidy and the Leadership of Simon & Schuster, and to All the Readers and Supporters of Books for Children:
We, as Simon & Schuster children’s and YA authors and illustrators, have deep respect for our publisher, our editors, and the Simon & Schuster Children's Division, which we believe strives to publish the strongest, most diverse list it can acquire, for the betterment of literature and children everywhere.
Sadly, we cannot extend this same respect to Simon & Schuster's Threshold imprint following their decision to lend the legitimacy of this publisher's venerable brand to hate-monger Milo Yiannopoulos. Threshold has placed Simon & Schuster's considerable reputation and weight behind one of the most prominent faces of the newly repackaged white supremacist/white nationalist movement and financially supported a man who routinely denigrates, verbally attacks, and directs dangerous internet doxxing and hate campaigns against women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals, Muslims, and anyone he chooses to target who supports equality and human decency. Irrespective of the content of this book, by extending a mainstream publication contract, Threshold has chosen to legitimize this reprehensible belief system, these behaviors, and white supremacy itself.
Additionally, they have associated all of Simon & Schuster with it, and therefore weakened the reach of the many other brilliant imprints that daily attempt to contribute to humanity instead of destroy it.
This is not an issue of advocating or suppressing free speech, as Mr. Yiannopoulos has a broad internet broadcasting platform and the support of many extremist organizations and publications. His voice is certainly being heard, and it is a voice of hate that stirs its followers to emotional, verbal, and physical violence directed at anyone who disagrees or speaks to the contrary. Insinuating that people who protest this terrible decision wish to suppress free speech is gaslighting.
As Simon & Schuster authors and illustrators who are already published, with books in the release pipeline, with contracts in place, we do not have to quietly accept or assent to this “Gleichschaltung,” this getting in line with fascism and making it mainstream. We reject the wisdom of this decision. This man, and this book, are not America. This man, and this book, are not the bulk of Simon & Schuster. This man, and this book, are not us, the authors and illustrators of Simon & Schuster. We believe that the children we write for deserve a better America.
We the undersigned pledge to continue to advocate tolerance, acceptance, love, diversity, and equality, and respectfully ask you to take an irrefutable stand against hate.
Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Alice Faye Duncan
Amber J. Keyser
Ann Whitford Paul
Anne Marie Pace
Betty G. Birney
Brooke Boynton Hughes
Corey Rosen Schwartz
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Elana K. Arnold
Elizabeth Rose Stanton
J. Anderson Coats
Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman
Karen Romano Young
Kari Anne Holt
Kristin L. Gray
Laurie Ann Thompson
Laurie Halse Anderson
Lee Gjertsen Malone
Liz Garton Scanlon
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Marion Dane Bauer
Mary Lyn Ray
Nancy Raines Day
Rachel Renée Russell
Rhonda (Helms) Stapleton
Sarah L. Thomson
Sue Lowell Gallion
Susan Goldman Rubin
Susan R. Vaught
Vanessa Brantley Newton
The article has been edited for clarity.