Controversy over sexual harassment in US children’s publishing; accused writer responds
Jay Asher, author of the young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, has responded to reports he was ‘expelled’ from the US Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for alleged sexual harassment, claiming that he left the writer’s group voluntarily, reports the Guardian.
SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver told the Associated Press on Monday that Asher, as well as illustrator David Diaz, had ‘violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment’ and that both were no longer SCBWI members as of last year. ‘Claims against them were investigated and, as a result, they are no longer members and neither will be appearing at any SCBWI events in the future,’ wrote Oliver.
Oliver also posted a comment to a School Library Journal article on sexual harassment in children’s literature, stating that both Asher and Diaz ‘have been expelled from the SCBWI and are not welcome as members, faculty or speakers,’ and listed a dedicated email address that members could use to report harassment.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, Asher claimed the decision to leave was one he made himself: ‘I love the organisation, but they didn’t decide to push me out. It was my decision, even though [Oliver] said the email contained nothing that their organization should have anything to do with.’
Asher further claimed he left because he had been ‘harassed’ by anonymous commenters ‘for close to 10 years’.
Asher’s publisher Penguin Young Readers told Publisher’s Weekly it was ‘unable to comment on Jay Asher’s relationship with SCBWI because we have had no involvement with or knowledge of our author’s history with this organization’.
The controversy is part of a broader discussion around sexual harassment in US children’s publishing that has arisen following author Anne Ursu’s article on the topic, which she posted on publishing platform Medium on 8 February.
In the wake of the allegations, Oliver said SCBWI will issue ‘a more detailed sexual harassment policy’, which will comprise ‘a statement of zero tolerance’; ‘a better-defined description of what constitutes harassment’; ‘a code of conduct for SCBWI events’; ‘a better reporting system, either anonymous or named, with a panel of three to review and investigate claims’; and ‘a statement of consequences for violation of our code of conduct’.