Censorship in literature is real, and it’s awful.
In previous blog posts, I’ve discussed The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, and praised groundbreaking authors such as Orwell and Solzhenitsyn. Here at Snowy Fictions, we deplore censorship of any kind. Authors have the right to express themselves and their beliefs, no matter how ‘politically incorrect’ they may be.
That’s why I’m saddened to hear the story of Kate Elysia. Her non-fiction book “No Way Out: My terrifying story of abuse at the hands of a vile sex ring” was treated rather poorly at the hands of the publisher.
For those unfamiliar, Kate Elysia endured sexual abuse at the hands of a Pakistani Muslim grooming gang in the United Kingdom. You can watch her interview with popular YouTuber, Sargon of Akkad, here:
Note: This interview contains graphic descriptions of sexual and emotional abuse. In this blog post, I’ll mainly discuss the publisher’s reaction, which starts at the 19 minute mark. The whole interview is worth watching, however.
As you can see from the video, Kate was told from her publishers that she could not describe her experiences as being a result of racism. The logic behind Ebury publishing (who are owned by Penguin) here is that ‘white people do not experience racism.’
Let’s unpack this. A publishing representive told a grooming gang survivor that her own experiences of being raped and abused could not be labelled racism because she’s white. After a few revisions, Kate changes her manuscript, and focuses on sexism and gender. The publisher approves, and publishes the book.
Look, I’m not going to get into the whole debate of ‘do white people experience racism?’ I have my own opinions. But that’s it. When a publisher says ‘white people don’t experience racism’- they are expressing an opinion. Not a fact.
If a publisher can’t tell a difference between an opinion and a fact, then to be frank, they have no business working in non-fiction.
Non-fiction books should only ever be edited if there is a factual error, or if there are issues with defamation. Kate did not do either. She expressed, as an author, her opinion. And because it was politically incorrect, she was censored.
That’s disgraceful. Putting aside the ethics of telling a grooming gang survivor of how she should react to her own trauma, it’s not the role of an editor to impose their own opinions onto a writer. This act of censorship is utterly disgusting.
Penguin and Ebury must apologise to Kate and allow her to amend the original manuscript to her will. They must also declare support for free speech and opposition to censorship.
We do not expect publishers to have the same opinions as authors. But they have no right to censor writers. Absolutely none.
On a side note: I’m interested in hearing from authors and publishers about their personal experiences with censorship. If you have any stories, you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.