Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Lying Email of the Day | Progressive Conservatism? »

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

“Cowardly Self-Censorship”

posted by on September 3 at 13:00 PM

In this week’s Constant Reader, I wrote about one controversy that’s consuming booksellers lately:

Independent publisher Chelsea Green is publishing Robert Kuttner’s newest book, Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, exclusively through’s print-on-demand service for two weeks.

Many booksellers are threatening to boycott Obama’s Challenge and some are threatening to boycott Chelsea Green’s books entirely. In my column I also wrote about the controversy that bookselllers should be paying attention to:

Random House imprint Ballantine Books paid $100,000 for the rights to The Jewel of Medina and a hypothetical sequel by Spokane author Sherry Jones. Medina is a novel written from the point of view of Muhammad’s wife Aishah, and the book had all the signs of becoming a best seller with the book-club crowd…Soon, angry Muslims were calling for a boycott and demanding that Random House disassociate from the book. In late May, presumably out of fear of retribution, Random House announced it would not publish The Jewel of Medina.

To my knowledge, not one independent bookseller has threatened to boycott Random House’s books. But now, one literary prize has:

An American book prize has blacklisted Random House following its “cowardly self-censorship” of Sherry Jones’s novel The Jewel of Medina. The Langum Charitable Trust, which awards two yearly $1,000 (£550) prizes, has said that until the novel is published, it “will not consider submissions of any books, for any of our prizes, from Random House or any of its affiliates”.

I know that this seems tiny—$2,000 a year!—but many authors need book award prize money to survive, and there’s no better way to get their attention than by threatening to withhold it. Maybe Random House will be made to account for this Jewel of Medina mess yet.

RSS icon Comments


First, apologies if this double posts, what is up with Slog today?

Gawker says the Germans are going to publish the book:

Posted by PopTart | September 3, 2008 1:11 PM

I heard a British publisher will be releasing the book.

Posted by MMB | September 3, 2008 2:11 PM

Authors need the money. Publishers don't, because they get their money from book sales, not book prizes. And authors possess little to no leverage with publishers, so they're not clout here. They're not going to budge.

Posted by Gomez | September 3, 2008 2:34 PM

Uh... there's no clout here

I swear my keyboard has an auto-typo function.

Posted by Gomez | September 3, 2008 2:36 PM

Wait, huh? Ok, I know this comment is way down here on the page & no one's going to see it, but most of the articles on Jewel of Medina that I've seen have been like the one in the Seattle Times a couple of weeks ago that said people were *worried* that there'd be hordes of angry Muslims, not that there *were* such hordes.

The quote that jumped out at me from the Times article was the Muslim guy saying, "you had a non-Muslim write a book, and you had a non-Muslim complain about it, and a non-Muslim publisher pull the book."

Have I allowed the unthinkable happen and let election shenanigans distract me from my beloved book-industry tantrums? (Can't be - I heard about the Twilight author thing).

But seriously, were there in fact angry Muslims?

Posted by SeaExile | September 3, 2008 5:22 PM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.