In defense of PEN

Dear Reader,

It was surprising to read that Lorraine Adams, author of today’s review of THE JEWEL OF MEDINA in the New York Times, has a journalism background. Good reporters check their facts before they publish, but in this case Ms. Adams has dropped the proverbial ball.

First she tells the reader that my book isn’t art. That’s OK with me, because she’s entitled to her opinion. But then she announces, smugly and erroneously, that PEN, an anti-censorship organization, hasn’t spoken out in favor of my right to publish the book. The implication is clear: Only “art” deserves free-speech protections.

Of course, we all know that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes no such distinction. But I’m not here to argue this point today. I just want to set the record straight. PEN has, indeed, issued a statement in support of the publication of THE JEWEL OF MEDINA. They did so after the Sept. 27 arson attempt at my British publisher’s home office by three men, an attack the media has speculated was provoked by the imminent publication of my book in the UK.

Here’s the link to the PEN release, which includes statements by notable authors Monica Ali, Nadeem Aslam, and Hanif Kureishi: s/offence/archiveofnews/leadingauthorssupportfrees peechpublisher/

Shortly after that attack — which led Gibson Square publisher Martin Rynja to suspend publication of my book in the British Commonwealth — Beaufort Books, my agent, Natasha Kern, and I agreed to accelerate publication of THE JEWEL OF MEDINA in the U.S. We hoped to stimulate talk about the book instead of speculation based on dangerous rumors about it.

Apparently, our tactic worked. Not only have there been no more “firebombings,” as the British media so spectacularly called the slipping of a piece of burning paper through a letter box, but people such as Ms. Adams are discussing the book. As for me, I don’t care what the critics say about it – as long as they spell the name right!

Keep reading,