A Brand New Novel
Josephine Baker, the early-20th-century African-American dancer, comic, and singer–hugely famous in Paris. Did you know that she was also a spy for the French Resistance during WWII?
I began getting calls and letters on Sunday regarding my interview with FOX News, which I have written about before. It appears to be as I feared: The station has focused on Random House’s “double standard” in its decision in May not to publish “The Jewel of Medina.”
I haven’t seen the newscast, but I hope the reporter included my contextual information: The Random House associate publisher’s statement that, if my book were offensive to Christians, they wouldn’t have backed out of publishing, was made in response to my question about “The Da Vinci Code.”
According to my notes, what the bearer of bad news actually said was, “We aren’t afraid of Catholics.” My point in talking about this? That the publishing house was not avoiding controversy in its decision to “indefinitely postpone” publication of my novel, but was acting out of fear. Although I believe this sort of self-censorship is a threat to free speech, I also understand the company’s decision and its fear. They are in New York City, where the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are still very vividly recalled. And in the United States, at least, Christians are not bombing anyone right now.
As I also told the reporter, Dan Springer, this is not a Random House issue so much as a cultural issue. It’s an invitation for us all to look at the culture of fear that has pervaded our country for seven years now, and to examine our own prejudices. Because of Random House’s decision, another issue has arisen: free speech and its future. If the publisher declined ALL controversial books, we would have even more reason to worry.