Literary World Reacts to Publishers’ Striking Questionable Lines
They pulled ‘offensive’ dialogue from authors Elin Hilderbrand’s and Casey McQuiston’s best-sellers
Authors Elin Hilderbrand (Winter in Paradise, Summer of ’69) and Casey McQuiston (Red, White and Royal Blue, One Last Stop) write the kind of books I love to read right now—light, fun, and carefree enough to set the tone for a nice day at the beach. And they are definitely the last two writers I’d expect at the center of a literary controversy but, sigh, here we are.
Last week, an Instagram user called out a line in Hilderbrand’s recent novel, Golden Girls, as anti-Semitic. In the book, a character named Vivi plans to hide out in her friend’s parents’ attic without their permission all summer. The line in question reads: “‘You’re suggesting I hide here all summer?’ Vivi asks. ‘Like…like Anne Frank?’” The girls laugh.
Critics demanded Hilderbrand’s publisher, Little, Brown, take action. Publishers Weekly quotes one Instagram user as saying, “As a Jewish woman, one who lost 18 members of her family in the holocaust I’m disgusted in you as a publisher that you allowed that line to be published. It’s inexcusable.”
“I know as a reader that the Anne Frank joke doesn’t always mean the author would use [it] in real life, but seeing that stuff in general helps normalize it. It clearly wasn’t important to the story if it could be easily removed,” tweeted @RoamingRebee.
In response, Hilderbrand apologized on Instagram and requested that her publisher remove the line from the e-book and future print editions.
Similarly, this week has been unkind to McQuiston, whose 2019 debut Red, White and Royal Blue chronicles the international love story between the son of the U.S. president and grandson of the Queen of England. Twitter user @SanktAleksander called out a throwaway line referencing U.S.-Israeli relations on June 6.
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“‘Well my U.N. ambassador fucked up his one job and said something idiotic about Israel, and said something idiotic about Israel, and now I have to call Netanyahu and personally apologize,’” McQuiston wrote.
“This author really could have simply not said this in their book but they still chose to,” said the tweet. “Just because you just got educated about what’s happening In Palestine this year doesn’t mean that all of us were ignorant, of course this isn’t about what’s happening now. But what’s happening now has always been happening. Stop being stupid. @casey_mcquiston do better.”
“I wish y’all would be as outraged about Palestine being occupied by a genocidal state for the past 73 years as y’all are outraged about your favorite white author getting called out for legitimizing said state in their ‘escapist’ book,” tweeted @lunemalinee.
McQuiston confirmed on Twitter that the line would be removed for future printings.
I wrote this line as a dig at US presidential diplomacy. It was an attempt to punch up at liberal American politics, not a statement of my beliefs. I could and should have made that clearer. It has been changed for all future printings.
— cmq updates (@casey_mcquiston) June 7, 2021
This time, they’ve gone too far
While recent censorship issues have divided contemporary writers and readers (you’ll remember the letter in Harper’s), many have rallied around Hilderbrand and McQuiston. Striking unsavory dialogue from fiction writing crosses the line.
“Last night I saw a fan bot account for an author call the author out over a line of dialogue in the novel and demand accountability from them on this website and knew that we’d jumped the shark. Truly, reality is glitching,” wrote author Brandon Taylor in a thread. “[T]he only people who don’t read this way are writers, people who teach writers, and people who publish writers. Everybody else reads this way and always has.”
“One thing funny about the ‘fiction must be morally pure’ crowd is that they constantly worry that reading a character (even a villain) say a bad thing will warp a reader’s mind but they of course don’t think THEY were ever once warped by reading a bad thing,” tweeted Lincoln Michel. “People will always take whatever meaning they want from art.”
“fiction writers getting flack for making up garbage people,” wrote author Krys Malcolm Belc. “meanwhile i stay safe by mostly writing my garbage self.”