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Jay Asher was quietly expelled from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators last year after the organization determined that the Thirteen Reasons Why author violated its harassment code, EW has confirmed. The news only became public on Monday, after Asher received scrutiny in the wake of a School Library Journal article on sexual harassment in children’s publishing.
Author Lin Oliver, who is the SCBWI’s executive director, first informed the AP of the organization’s decision.
School Library Journal published an article last month detailing allegations of misconduct that had been made against illustrator David Díaz (Smoky Night) and Penguin Workshop executive art director Giuseppe Castellano. Over the weekend, in the lead-up to Monday’s American Library Association awards for young media, the article’s comments section suddenly featured a flood of anonymous comments about Asher and other prominent authors not mentioned in the piece, prompting Oliver to react.
On Sunday night, Oliver personally responded in the article’s comments section to those calling out the SCBWI for seemingly backing Asher. “Please understand that SCBWI can only take action on what has been reported. Two men have been reported — David Diaz and Jay Asher,” she wrote. “Both have been expelled from the SCBWI and are not welcome as members, faculty or speakers … There is a zero tolerance policy for harassment, there is a preponderance [of] powerful and respected women on our board, on our staff, and in our membership.”
In a further comment to Buzzfeed, Oliver explained that the complaints received by the SCBWI were anonymous and by email. “After we investigated, we felt that terminating his membership was the proper course of action,” she said. “We have always been really sensitive to sexual harassment issues and have a zero tolerance policy, but clearly our policies haven’t prevented violations, so we’re taking this opportunity to take another look at our guidelines.”
Asher denies being pushed out of the SCBWI. “It’s very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth,” he told BuzzFeed on Monday. “I feel very conflicted about it just because of what’s going on in the culture and who’s supposed to be believed and who’s not.” The author also claimed to feel “thrown under the bus” because the SCBWI told him at the time that “the emails showed nothing.”
“I understand the predicament they’re in with everything going on and to want to protect themselves,” Asher continued. “I love the organization, but they didn’t decide to push me out. It was my decision, even though [Oliver] said the email contained nothing that their organization should have anything to do with.”
Asher’s spokesperson, Tamara Taylor, released the following statement on his behalf on Wednesday:
Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, originally published in 2007 and now a popular Netflix series, has generated controversy for its approach to depicting suicide. The No. 1 New York Times best-seller centers on high school student Hannah Baker, as her classmate Clay finds and listens to the 13 audiotapes she recorded mapping out the events that led to her death by suicide.
In November 2017, actress Charlyne Yi accused Castellano of repeatedly urging her to invite him back to her hotel room after a business meeting in a bar; Castellano has denied “every allegation made by” Yi and called them “fabricated,” also noting their meeting was social, rather than professional. Díaz was accused by writer Ishta Mercurio of inappropriately fondling her hair and saying into her ear, “You’re kinky, aren’t you?” at SCBWI’s annual conference in 2012; he later apologized to Mercurio and she accepted before he resigned from SCBWI’s board in December.