It’s kind of appropriate that Roxane Gay’s forthcoming book is entitled How to Be Heard, because being heard is something at which Gay has proven very adept over the last few years — so much so, perhaps, that it’s easy to underestimate just how hard-won her position of zeitgeist-y cultural commentator is.
But her direct, honest and heartfelt writing is backed up by action. Gay has, as of today, pulled How to Be Heard from TED Books — an imprint of Simon & Schuster — in a protest at S&S’s decision to offer a $250,000 book deal to Gamergate shitlord and general internet dickhead-about-town Milo Yiannopoulos. Gay discussed her decision in an interview published on Buzzfeed News today: “I was supposed to turn the book in this month and I kept thinking about how egregious it is to give someone like Milo a platform for his blunt, inelegant hate and provocation. I just couldn’t bring myself to turn the book in. My editor emailed me last week and I kept staring at that email in my inbox and finally over the weekend I asked my agent to pull the book.”
It’s important not to overlook what a courageous decision this is. For Gay to pull her book is a huge risk; publishing is a notoriously fickle industry, and there’s nothing to say that an opportunity will automatically arise to release it with a different publisher. (As per Entertaimment Weekly, the book “does not yet have a new home but [Gay said,] ‘I do hope [it] is published someday.’”) Gay herself tweeted that “I can afford to take this stand,” and it certainly shouldn’t hurt her career, but things don’t always turn out like they should do. Either way, this is a principled decision that deserves a huge amount of credit and respect — and the kind of decision many people in different walks of life will be faced with in the years to come.