|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
|Established in 1996
| Thursday, February 29, 2024
|Racism dispute roils romance writers group
The dispute arose over the groups treatment of Courtney Milan, a former board member and chair of its ethics committee who last summer criticized Kathryn Lynn Davis novel Somewhere Lies the Moon on Twitter as a racist mess.
by Concepción de León
NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- A dispute over a racism accusation and how it was handled have upended the romance writers community, with bestselling novelists speaking out against the Romance Writers of America and most of the powerful, 9,000-member trade organizations board resigning in the last days of the year.
The RWA on Monday said it was hiring a law firm to to conduct an audit of the process and these events to provide a clear report of the facts. The dispute arose over the groups treatment of Courtney Milan, a former board member and chair of its ethics committee who last summer criticized Kathryn Lynn Davis novel Somewhere Lies the Moon on Twitter as a racist mess.
Milan, who is Chinese American, took issue with the depiction of 19th-century Chinese women in the book, including a description of slanted almond eyes and a quote from a character describing them as demure and quiet, as our mothers have trained us to be. The notion of the submissive Chinese woman is a racist stereotype which fuels higher rates of violence against women, Milan wrote on Twitter.
Davis, who is an honorary RWA member, disagreed with Milans assessment, saying her book was historically accurate and based on years of research. She filed an ethics complaint with the RWA, saying that Milans comments were cyberbullying and cost her a publishing contract.
I would not have filed a complaint if she had been more professional, Davis said of Milan.
In her response to the complaint, Milan said that the RWAs ethics code does not cover discussions on social media accounts it doesnt operate, and said of her criticism: I am emotional about these issues. Negative stereotypes of Chinese women have impacted my life, the life of my mother, my sisters, and my friends.
As a result of that complaint and one from another writer, Suzan Tisdale, who employs Davis at a publishing imprint and said she had lost potential authors as a result of the controversy, the RWA told Milan earlier last week that her membership was suspended and she was banned for life from holding leadership positions within the organization.
Milan called the judgment a form of betrayal and shared the documents associated with the complaint with her friend and fellow romance writer Alyssa Cole, who posted them to Twitter.
If it was now RWAs policy that talking about a book and specifically saying negative things about a book as a marginalized author was going to get you banned from the organization, Milan said, I felt that other marginalized people in the organization needed to know that.
Once the documents were on social media, other writers, including bestselling romance novelists like Nora Roberts and Cynthia Eden, voiced their support for Milan. The RWA quickly reversed course on its judgment, but eight board members resigned as well as former president Carolyn Jewel, and a petition calling for the resignation of Damon Suede, the RWAs new president, began circulating online.
Some of the backlash was from writers and members who felt that the dispute wasnt handled with enough transparency. The RWA formed a separate group to address the complaints, for example, and didnt inform the ethics committee, which Milan previously led, about them.
The RWA, in addition to announcing it would hire an outside firm Monday, criticized members who it said inappropriately shared personal and/or private information which has legal consequences and has resulted in members feeling threatened, exposed, and unsafe. This is unacceptable behavior. As writers we know more than most, words have consequences.
Previously, in the message to its members, it called the incidents of the past weeks a turning point. We have lost the trust of our membership and the romance community and we must find a way to rebuild that, it said, while reiterating its commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do.
The genre for years has grappled with calls for greater diversity. Romance writers and the characters they create are overwhelmingly white, even as romance publishers have said they want to release more books by writers of color.
Davis, who filed one of the complaints, said she was stunned by the RWAs judgment against Milan and said the penalty far exceeded the substance of the complaint. We asked for an apology. That was what we wanted, she said.
HelenKay Dimon, who was president of RWA until her term ended in late August, said that she thought there had been a series of breakdowns in the process and is calling for a full audit.
People care enough to get that upset, she said. Now, the organization needs to step up and take responsibility and have a plan.
I think the organization and the membership and the people who drove this decision are not the same things, Milan said. The response of the membership should be heartening to anyone who cares about diversity in RWA and romance.
© 2019 The New York Times Company
December 31, 2019
An afterlife so perilous, you needed a guidebook
Three works by British modernist artists gifted to the nation
The Baltimore Museum of Art announces final 2019 acquisitions
Flea market where Andy Warhol shopped has sold its last collectible
Morphy's announces The Susquehanna Collection of antique furniture, historical firearms, decorative and fine art
TASCHEN publishes an enormous and unique book of works by Nobuyoshi Araki
Hundreds of rare coin record prices in 2019, reports Professional Numismatists Guild
First retrospective on French creator Thierry Mugler on view at the Kunsthal Rotterdam
Pace presents the first ever Picasso exhibit in Palo Alto
Moreau Kusunoki and Genton to design the new Powerhouse
Exhibition at the Speed Art Museum honors a long-overlooked Louisville artist
Racism dispute roils romance writers group
Philippe Pastor presents a remarkable installation of 28 sculptures of "The Burned Trees" at Monaco Modern'Art
Auction to feature items signed by Lincoln, FDR, Jefferson, Hemingway, The Beatles and others
COLLECTIBLE returns to Brussels for its third edition from 5 - 8 March 2020
The second stage of the traveling pan-African exhibition "Prête-moi ton rêve" opens in Dakar
Art Rotterdam 6-9 February 2020: New highlights of a surprising programme
Kang Jungsuck's first London solo exhibition on view at The Korean Cultural Centre UK
Exhibition presents a selective portrait of 1980s painting in Canada
Muzeum Susch presents 'Up to and Including Limits: After Carolee Schneemann'
Art Dubai 2020 reaffirms commitment to alternative global perspectives with announcement of gallery list
TEFAF Maastricht announces the most international and diverse exhibitor line up to date
Finkelstein gallery, Australia's female-artist gallery, announces seven exhibitions and talk series for 2020
The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art opens an exhibition of etchings by Helen Hardin
What to Do When Your Claim Has Been Refused
Design Inspiration from the World's Most Awe-Inspiring Casinos
What are the advantages of Group Benefits?
CBD Topicals for Anti-Aging: What Studies Show
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.