Just when we thought we were in the clear from the chaos of 2020, Trump incited a mob of insurrectionists to storm the Capitol just in time to get 2021 off to a rolling start. Regardless of one’s political views, it should be clear that such violence is not the best traits of humanity. But for some, this incident has come as yet another reminder that action needs to be taken as inaction allowed these events to occur.
One such individual who decided to take action was author Barry Lyga.
Posting an open letter with signatures from more than 250 authors, agents, booksellers, and publishers alike, Lyga and company openly expressed their opposition to publishing anything under President Trump or members of his administration on future book deals.
Lyga was keen to note that most members of an outgoing administration will tend to rely on that “fat book contract with a healthy advance. [But] in the case of the Trump Administration and its history of outrages, lies, and incitement to insurrection, we cannot allow this to stand. No one should be enriched for their contribution to evil.”
And just like that, individuals within the publishing industry made their voices heard.
Books and publishing are largely known to promote communication, empathy, and authenticity through storytelling that attempts to expand one’s individual scope of the world at large. But the publishing industry at large is also known for chasing money and capitalizing on the notoriety of certain choice individuals, a piece of evidence Lyga was keen not to neglect.
Invoking “Son of Sam” laws meant to prevent convicted criminals from profiting off of book deals, Lyga concluded in his letter: “We are tired of the industry we love enriching the monsters among us, and we will do whatever is in our power to stop it.”
Addressing the publishing industry’s history is perhaps the single most important part of the letter itself. And the reason for its significance can all but be boiled down to a single word: accountability.
When looking back on how you specifically and personally have contributed to systems that oppress, marginalize, disenfranchise, and dehumanize, accountability has to come with the territory. There should be no choice but to take responsibility for one’s actions. But somehow, that’s exactly what it has become.
Individuals who come forward and admit their compliance with injustice are often regaled as heroes willing to face their wrongdoings.
But coming forward with accountability should not be a badge of honor. It should be considered the norm.
I’m honestly tired of accountability being a choice. And let me be clear. This is not me criticizing Lyga. At all. It gives me hope to see that open letter with over 250 signatures to boot. But the fact that we continue to live in a culture that was built and continually thrives on white supremacist delusion is a much larger issue than book deals.
Am I happy that the letter exists? Yes. Do I feel that too many things have come a little too late? Absolutely.
But progress is always one step forward, two steps back.
Recognizing the duality of our actions, the timing of them, and the appropriateness of them is just as important in our acknowledging that we have contributed to systems we disagree with. There can be no justice without accountability. And I’m glad that individuals within the publishing industry have decided that they agree with this sentiment too.