paper trail

Six National Book Critics Circle board members resign following an effort to publish statement supporting Black Lives Matter

Hope Wabuke

At least six members of the National Book Critics Circle’s board of directors have resigned following the publication of an internal email written by board member Carlin Romano, in which he responded to the board’s collective effort to publish a letter stating its support of writers of color. Among other things, Romano wrote, “I resent the idea that whites in the book publishing and literary world are an oppositional force that needs to be assigned to re-education camps.” Poet and board member Hope Wabuke tweeted portions of Romano’s letter. She has resigned, stating: “It is not possible to change these organizations from within, and the backlash will be too dangerous for me to remain.” NBCC president Laurie Hertzel has resigned, saying that the publicizing of “private exchanges” has “made it impossible to continue with this discussion in good faith.” Carolyn Kellogg has also resigned, and has posted her own letter of resignation. Giving her own reasons for leaving, she notes that NBCC bylaws make it impossible to kick Romano off the board. “That’s unacceptable. I will not serve on the board with him.” She concludes: “You’ve all read our Anti-Racism pledge, contributed to it and debated it and approved it. But the NBCC has a long way to go before living up to it.” Update: Ismail Muhammad has announced his resignation from the NBCC board: "The message that went out to members this past weekend, which did not denounce carlin romano’s racist email, has made it clear to me that the idea of changing the organization from the inside is untenable."

The website for the now-defunct Village Voice is highlighting James Ledbetter’s 1995 two-part feature story “The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing,” in which he reported on the dearth of writers of color in journalism (part 1) and book publishing (part 2). He considers the staff makeups at a number of publications (including the Voice). Of book publishing at the time, he quotes agent Faith Hampton Childs: “They hire their friends, or the children of friends. You won’t get arthritis counting them on both hands.” Ledbetter goes on to write: “A handful of publishing houses—Ran­dom House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, Berkeley/Putnam, Warner Books—together with their subsidiaries account for a majority of the books published in the United States. In these companies, the question is not how many people of color they employ at decision-making levels, but whether they have any at all.”

At the Washington Post, Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison report on the attempts at “racial reckoning” in American newsrooms.

Amistad has purchased Clyde Ford’s nonfiction book Freedom Dues for a reported six figures. Ford is the author of the memoir Think Black and the novel The Long Mile. Amistad bought Clyde Ford’s nonfiction book Freedom Dues, which won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in contemporary fiction. According to Ford’s agent, Adam Chromy at Movable Type Management, Freedom Dues is “the story of how Black labor built America,” and “traces a fascinating but overlooked story of how American institutions of power and wealth were created from the sweat of Black hands without their fair share in return.”

Tomorrow at 7pm EST, in a virtual event hosted by McNally Jackson Books, Eileen Myles will talk with Robert Glück about his novel Margery Kempe, which was recently reissued by New York Review Classics.