Book World Responds to Immigration Ban

Writers and publishing houses worldwide announce boycotts

In the tumultuous days since the President issued a discriminatory and illegal executive order restricting immigration and travel into the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the worldwide literary community has taken notice. Publishers and authors are gearing up for the fight.

As reported earlier today in the Guardian, UK publishing house Comma Press was among the first to take action, announcing plans to only translate writers from Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sudan (the seven nations targeted by the ban) during 2018. Comma CEO and publisher Ra Page made the announcement after an emergency conference with staff on Monday. “If the only narrative America wants to export right now is the narrative of hate, then we need to look elsewhere. We need to consciously turn our backs on the circus that America is descending into,” he told the Guardian. “We need to fight this. And make no mistake it will be a fight.”

Comma, a not-for-profit press, has writers on its roster already affected by the ban, including Hassan Blasim, the Iraqi broadcaster and author of the acclaimed novel, The Iraqi Christ, who is currently unable to enter the U.S.

Individual writers have taken public action, as well. Former UK Children’s Laureate, Calorie Blackman, plans to boycott the United States indefinitely, Earlier this week, she tweeted: “thank you to all those who have invited me to various US lit fests/events but I won’t be visiting the US any time soon.”

The Humans author Matt Haig has also promised not to return to the United States while the ban remains in effect. He described his motivations to the Guardian: “It just seems like a lack of solidarity at this present moment to go on holiday there with the ban in place.” While recognizing his choice is only a “small gesture,” Haig hoped it would help inspire more collective action.

Additionally, London-based Arabic press Saqi Books will publish a satirical collection titled Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic that will feature affected authors. Due out later this year, it would be a more ethical purchase than any title from a certain white nationalist-supporting American publishing house.

Canadian-American author Linwood Barclay will also be forgoing travel to the United States during the ban, cancelling multiple appearances in the process. While detailing his decision for The Global Mail, Barclay remarked on criticism he has received for his choice, “one person messaged me the other day and said writers should keep quiet about their opinions, which struck me as amusing. Right, that’s why authors decide to do what they do, so they can keep their thoughts to themselves.”

No word yet from US-based publishers, but in the meantime, an important reminder for all of us, from Colson Whitehead, laureate-of-the-resistance:

We’ll keep you apprised of more book world actions as we learn of them.

Update (2/1/2017)

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