American literary prize blacklists Random House

Historians in the News

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".

Random House dropped Jones's novel, about the child bride of Muhammad, after it was warned that it posed a security risk akin to the publication of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. The book has subsequently been withdrawn from bookshops in Serbia after pressure from an Islamic group.

According to the founder of the Langum Charitable Trust, David Langum, the decision to withdraw the book was a political one.

"No one should expect that publishers print every piece of trash that comes into their offices, and The Jewel of Medina may be neither good literature nor good history," he said. "That is beside the point since Random House had already paid a $100,000 advance, arranged for book club publication, and foreign publication. It changed course and self-censored solely on the political grounds of fear of offending Muslims or fomenting violence."

"That form of cowardice will only lead to more and more of this form of self-censorship and is an attack on the integrity of literary publication," Langum continued. "We must stand up to it, in whatever ways are available to us. The form that was available to our small foundation was to put Random House out of the running for our prizes."
Read entire article at Guardian

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Randll Reese Besch - 9/10/2008

The harder it will be later to fight it and the more insistent will be the critics for whatever reason that motivates them to decry and censor what has been written.