Publishing Scandal

Here’s an interesting one. Alisa Valdes, author of the Dirty Girls Social Club, published a memoir called The Feminist and the Cowboy about her relationship with a right-wing gun-toting cattle ranch owner. In it she talks about the glory of submission and how the relationship caused her to rethink her stance on love, men, and feminism. You can read the reviews and chatter here. Just after the book was published, Valdes posted on her blog that the relationship that she had written about in her book was, in fact, abusive. The giddiness she felt at submitting, sexually and otherwise, to the cowboy, was gone, and she realized/came to terms with the fact that the cowboy was an abuser.

It’s a fascinating writer’s dilemma. Did Valdes write about her relationship in such strong terms because she was trying to convince herself? Was she brainwashed and using her writing gifts to talk about it? I haven’t read the book, and I leave these questions unanswered, because it brings up yet another problem. The publisher.

Valdes posted about the abuse on her blog. Her agent asked her to take the post down. I can only imagine how she’s feeling now. Is she going on book tours? What will she say? Will she feel responsible for encouraging other women to “find themselves” in oppressive relationships?

But let’s look at it from the publisher’s side. The publisher thought the book was either good enough or marketable enough to throw its resources behind the project. After a book is published there are tours, blogs, readings, facebook pages, twitter, whatever the hell else one does to promote oneself (I wouldn’t know; I’m a poet.). And the author has just flown in the face of the book she just wrote.

And it wasn’t a Cat Stevens thing. She didn’t become religious and divorce herself from her previous sins. No, she made a realization that the writing about her relationship was both wrong and damaging. She completely reversed course on her book. How do her editors feel about the content of her book and her retraction, as it were? There are a lot of feminists in publishing, but no matter how they feel personally, they still have to stand by the book itself and promote it. What does a thinking/responsible publisher do? Do you include a new introduction? Do you cut your losses? Do you snap up the sequel?

This blog post is dedicated to one of my favorite publishing professionals, who just had a baby. Shout out to Louis and Baby Louis!

9 responses to “Publishing Scandal

  1. Pingback: So, It Has Come to This « Earful of Cider

  2. Mercy. I didn’t even know about this one!

    I’m glad Ms. Valdes found the courage to leave an abusive relationship and to make the decision to talk about her decision. I’m also glad I’m not her publisher.

    I think I’d pull the book, give it back, and ask her to write around the original material. Is that even possible?

  3. I’d snap up the sequel, for sure. Shunning her certainly isn’t an option. All it does is make the publisher look fair weathered.

  4. You milk the publicity. The author’s dilemma has got me seeking out a book by an unfamiliar author, simply out of knee-jerk curiosity. The memoir is instantly more complex and intriguing for her belated reaction to it.

  5. Okay, now that I’ve read all of the links, including her blog, I have a “meh” feeling about it all. She lost me when she said he dragged her down a hall and turned her over and was rough with her, not because he did it but because she’s now hemming and hawing about how she liked it even though he forced her, etc… Backandforthbackandforth. I’m too irritated by the entire story to bother with her book.

    • Another interesting thing genderwise was how one of the reviewers (maybe in the Atlantic?) pointed out that she scorned feminine behavior in women as part of her feminist beliefs, and then post-cowboy she scorned femininity in men as well.

      She used the word emasculate, which is such an awful word. Is DP less of a man because he cooks? Am I less of a woman because I fucking hate to wear dresses? Fuck the patriarchy. Let’s take down gender stereotypes and assumptions of all kinds!

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