Best-selling author Jay Asher, who penned Thirteen Reasons Why, has been expelled from The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators over sexual harassment allegations.
Executive director Lin Oliver told The Associated Press on Monday that Asher had violated the society’s harassment code.
The society banned Asher last year but the news only came to light with the rise of the #MeToo movement. Asher and prize-winning illustrator David Diaz, who was also kicked out of the organization, were mentioned frequently in a recent comment thread on School Library Journal about harassment in children’s publishing.
“Both Jay Asher and David Diaz were found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment,” Oliver wrote in an email. “Claims against them were investigated and, as a result, they are no longer members and neither will be appearing at any SCBWI events in the future.”
Diaz won the prestigious Caldecott medal for illustration for the 1994 book Smoky Night. Diaz has worked on dozens of books, including Me, Frida and The Little Scarecrow Boy.
Asher is best known for his novel Thirteen Reasons Why and The Future of Us. The author told Buzzfeed News on Monday that he left the organization voluntarily and now feels “thrown under the bus.”
“It’s very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth,” he said. “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.”
“I understand the predicament they’re in with everything going on and to want to protect themselves,” Asher said, adding with regard to his accusers, “The truth is that I had been harassed by these people for close to 10 years. And I just could not deal with it anymore.”
Later on Monday, the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation said that Asher would not be giving a scheduled keynote address at its conference in May.
“Mr. Asher has denied the accusations, but in the end understood our decision to go in a different direction,” said the federation’s publicity director, author Jennifer McMurrain.
Tamara Taylor, a spokesperson for Asher released a statement in regards to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators statement on the author:
“The SCBWI’s recent statement about author Jay Asher is completely false. There was no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment.
In April 2017, Mr. Asher voluntarily agreed that he would no longer attend SCBWI conferences. This was in response to hurt feelings of a group of authors with whom he had consensual relationships that ended poorly.
Mr. Asher was not banned by the SCBWI. In fact, when he let his membership in the group lapse last summer, Lin Oliver, the group’s executive director, suggested that he keep his membership going. He did as requested, and Mr. Asher’s membership is active today.
These women were not subordinates of Mr. Asher; they were his peers and they each entered into romantic relationships with him voluntarily, with some initially pursuing him.
Mr. Asher was married at the time of these relationships, as were many of the women. He is deeply sorry for the pain these consensual decisions caused his family, and others.
The false statements to the news media have resulted in inaccurate and hurtful news coverage, which is threatening Mr. Asher’s livelihood. Mr. Asher has retained legal counsel and is demanding SCBWI and Lin Oliver promptly retract the false and defamatory statements they made.”
Thirteen Reasons Why was Asher’s first book. The 2007 novel about a high school student’s suicide, adapted last year into a Netflix series, has attracted attention for its explicit content, including assault and harassment. Netflix is planning to bring Thirteen Reasons Why back in 2018, but hasn’t set a date.
WATCH BELOW: The latest on 13 Reasons Why
A Netflix spokesperson gave a statement to Vanity Fair, saying, “Jay Asher was not involved in the second season of 13 Reasons Why. The upcoming season will not be impacted in any way.”
—With files from the Associated PressFollow @KatieScottNews
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