June 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

AILA Rescinds Sherman Alexie’s 2008 YA Book of the Year Award

In a bold move, the American Indian Literature Association (AILA) is rescinding Sherman Alexie’s 2008 YA Book of the Year Award “to send an unequivocal message that Alexie’s actions are unacceptable.”

Author Sherman Alexie

 Photo courtesy of
Little Brown

Alexie won the 2008 AILA award (and 2007 National Book Award) for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but the legend in the AILA community and once-revered member in the children’s literature world has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women as the #metoo movement swept through the kid lit community in recent months.

On February 28, Alexie released a statement apologizing and admitting to doing unspecified things that “have harmed other people,” but denied the specific accusations of author Litsa Dremousis, and said he did not remember threatening anyone or their careers.

AILA president Naomi Bishop did not confirm the action and contents of the note, but said via email that the American Library Association (ALA) would “publish the statement publicly for AILA” later this week. The note, sent to AILA membership via its listserv, was shared with SLJ by someone who received it.

Here it is in full:

Dear AILA membership,
The Youth Literature Awards Committee and the Executive Board write to express full support
for the people harmed by Sherman Alexie. We believe and commend the writers who have
spoken up and extend our heartfelt compassion to those who have chosen to remain silent.
As librarians we have a significant influence on books that schools and libraries select. The
AILA Youth Literature Awards were established in 2006 to honor Native authors and illustrators.
The books we select represent the very best for our kids and our communities. We believe that
writers are members of our communities who we can look to as role models for our youth.

We cannot, therefore, recommend Mr. Alexie’s books, and we have decided to rescind our 2008
Best YA Book Award for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. In rescinding this
award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that Alexie’s actions are unacceptable.
Sexual harassment and abuse are not easy to report and discuss. If you or someone you know
is experiencing sexual assault or harassment, one resource you can turn to is the Strong Hearts
Helpline at http://www.strongheartshelpline.org/about/ 
Hope and healing can be found in books like #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American
Women. We selected it as our Best YA Book for 2018. #NotYourPrincess is a powerful
anthology by Native American and First Nations women sharing their experiences through
poems, essays, interviews, and art. It is one of many that AILA has selected for its awards. See
information about the 2018 winners at

http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2018/02/2018-aila-youth-literature-awards-announced 

The youth we serve today are here because their ancestors fought for their future and the
well-being of their nations. It is in that spirit with which we write to you today.
Sincerely,
AILA Youth Lit Committee
AILA Executive Board

 

Kara Yorio About Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. Stephanie R says:

    Has he been convicted in a court of law? The Constitution ensures the right if the accused to have a fair, impartial jury as well as to face their accusers in court. While if he is guilty of the charges this would be acceptable, he has not “confessed” to the specific allegations and has specifically denied some of them. Wouldn’t the ALA be more justified in following the law than allowing what has not been proven to govern their actions? Having had friends sexually assaulted (and seen the aftermath), I do not take things like this lightly. However, I do believe the court of law should be the final say, not unproven allegations and the court of public opinion.

    • No need. He admitted to his wrongdoing.

      • Stephanie R says:

        Actually he apologized for hurt he has caused. He did not admit to any specific allegations which leads it up to interpretation.

        Being tried by public opinion is a situation that I am familiar with after a co-worker was falsely accused by a student of inappropriate behavior. It went to court where, under oath, it came out that the girl was lying. However, his reputation could not recover.

        • Dan Hotchkins says:

          I am unconvinced by your implicit argument that because he has not been found guilty in a criminal court case, that we cannot look at the evidence presented to us (by these women AND by Mr. Alexie himself) and come to our own conclusions. These are abhorrent charges against him, and in his statement, he chooses to refuse to explicitly state that he did not have inappropriate sexual “relations” with these women, whether it’s a question of “mere” adultery, or whether it extends beyond adultery to sexual misconduct. This statement on his part only appeared after some of these women started coming forward, and for my part I would find it shocking if the coming forward of these women and his statement have absolutely no connection. What is more, when you are a public figure such as Mr. Alexie is, and one that markets his media materials towards children and young adults, I hold folks such as those to an even greater bar, just as communities hold educators in K-12 to a higher bar. A higher standard. This being the case, Mr. Alexie’s choice to offer a very vaguely-worded letter may protect him, in his mind, from some kind of legal liability, but it doesn’t give me any satisfaction that he’s entirely innocent of some charge of sexual impropriety. If he seeks to rectify this situation, it would behoove him to be more explicit in what he’s apologizing for. The truth of the matter is that when you’re a public figure, you don’t HAVE to be judged guilty in a criminal court. If the preponderance of evidence points towards your having done something gravely wrong, however, especially given the current political/cultural atmosphere, you’d best come forward to defend your innocence in the court of public opinion. If you don’t, the courts may or may not have their day with you; however, you’ll leave many of us in limbo, those of us who are waiting to hear an adequate explanation of your behaviors and actions. And as he seems to have been silent online since his statement online, the damage to his reputation will only grow.

          • Stephanie R says:

            Who was he apologizing to? He did not say it was to victims. He said to people he had hurt, including his wife. Perhaps he was referring to the damage done to familial relationships from his admitted affair. I don’t know. You don’t know. And the Constitution does not say everyone has rights except for public figures. The rights belong to everyone. Could he be guilty? Of course. But just as you would want a fair trial if you were accused, he should have one before he is tarred and feathered by society.

    • Libertarian Librarian says:

      Agreed Stephanie R. Have we learned nothing from the major universities such as Duke and Columbia that didn’t make judgments based on facts, but feelings? Are we so quick to jump on the #metoo band wagon that we can’t wait for the truth? “Due process” is the only directive that appears in the Constitution twice. The Fifth and 14th amendments both state that no person shall be deprived “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The irony that in a profession that purports to support the Constitution and Bill of Rights we ignore them is mind boggling. In a profession that is busy stating we provide factual information we don’t bother to wait for facts.

      • Dan Hotchkins says:

        I disagree with you and Stephanie R because we have some very plain facts in front of us. Mr. Alexie in his apology statement did not deny the charges of sexual impropriety that have been leveled against him. Unless he’s compelled by some court order to express himself in as vague a way as he did in that statement, what we are left with is his silence post-statement and the charges of these multiple women. If Mr. Alexie were truly concerned about his reputation, he would not have created such a vaguely-worded apology statement that leaves us to construe what he may or may not have done. This is an apology statement which, by the way, appeared nearly simultaneously with the making-known of these women’s charges against him. His own words and choices point to his guilt in some kind of serious impropriety involving himself and apparently multiple women. He may get his day in court, as well, but mark my words: whether you would agree with my sentiments or not, unless he comes forward with a more honest “statement”, his reputation among many of us is in doubt. He owes it to all of us, educators, children, and parents, to be more forthcoming. It’s the least he can do when he’s occupied such an exalted position in our public life.
        As a footnote, while I do appreciate your referencing the Constitution, I would remind you that no one here is advocating for, or capable of, depriving Mr. Alexie of “life, liberty, or property, without the due process of law”. But this does not mean that we cannot form our own opinions about the presumed guilty or innocence of any particular person or party; indeed, the creators of Fox News and many Fox viewers I know personally have condemned Hillary Clinton for FAR fewer credible reasons. Cultural institutions and organizations are not courts of law, and so their decisions to withhold or grant distinction are up to them. If they feel that the lack of specificity and concomitant silence by Mr. Alexie condemns him, they have a right to that opinion. It just so happens that I agree with their assessment. Hopefully, Mr. Alexie makes the right choice and explains himself further. Whether or not he does, we may well hear about it when they go to trial.

        • Stephanie R says:

          His own words can be interpreted in multiple ways. He did not admit guilt. A lack of an explicit denial does not equal an admission of guilt. We are supposed to support facts, not innuendos and opinions, when we teach students to research. Shouldn’t the ALA do the same?

          • Dan Hotchkins says:

            Given the times we live in, in which the issue of allegations of sexual abuse have garnered a larger national spotlight than perhaps at any time in our collective past, Sherman Alexie’s apology statement, which comes forth as a string of women accuse him of alleged sexual misconduct, is inadequate. He knows better than most of us how the court of public opinion works, and to issue an apology statement to those “he’s harmed”, well, that’s not enough. What he left unsaid speaks volumes about who he is, and it was ill-advised for him to not be more specific about whom he has hurt, and why. It’s a coded message, perhaps meant to shield himself from litigation, but he owes more than that to the children and adults who’ve idolized the man and his writings. Again, ALA is not a court of law, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take the evidence we’re privy to and make a determination in our own minds about his character.

    • Therese Bigelow says:

      Not ALA. Its AILA who rescinded the award.

    • Susan F. says:

      1. The award has nothing to do with the law.
      2. The #metoo and #timesup movements exist because courts of law have failed victims over and over again. To expect “justice” and “truth” to only be defined through courts of law is to do a great disservice to victims.

      3. Having friends who have been sexually assaulted does not grant your opinion legitimacy. Shame on your for using your friends in that way.

      • Stephanie R says:

        Having a different opinion than you does not make my opinion illegitimate. It simply means we don’t see eye-to-eye. Shame on you for deciding that others cannot have a differing opinion.

        And I have not “used” my friends in any way. I simply made a statement that I do not condone sexual assaults because I have a great deal of empathy towards victims of it since I have seen the effect it had on my friends.

        The #metoo movement has not formed because of the failure of courts considering many of the women speaking out NEVER spoke to law enforcement or pursued charges. The courts cannot serve justice if no one seeks it. (Notice I did say many, not all.)

        And the award has to do with the book. The book has done nothing wrong. And to take back the award because of unproven allegations is wrong.

        • Dan Hotchkins says:

          In reference to your statement above beginning with “whom did he harm?”, if he is a person with any integrity, he would say these words aloud to his wife. If he has, and then he decides to put them online, as well, then he should have said “I apologize to my wife for having an adulterous relationship”. To leave it purposefully plague, when so many accusations are swirling around, is ill-advised. If he’s innocent and wants to protect his reputation, he would vigorously combat these allegations. This is not just “me” speaking; he’s a public person with a very well-known profile, and since he is in fact an author, he understands better than us (most likely) the power of the words he chooses to deploy.
          What I do appreciate about this moment is that my students and I can have conversations about how “great people” commit grievous errors. His adultery, which stained his marriage and presumably had a terrible impact on his wife and children, falls into that category. Needless to say, it was troubling when my students, who are barely at the point of being able to have these kinds of conversations in an “adult” way, came to me to tell me that Sherman Alexie is talking about his sex life on his website’s homepage. This is the sort of mess we get ourselves into when we choose to commit this kind of impropriety, and this goes back to my earlier point: if you’re sorry for adultery, and you’re sorry to your wife and kids, then say it. When lots of women come forward to accuse you of misconduct, however, and you choose not to answer while understanding that the world is watching, there’s at least one thing to be concluded: that you’ve committed at least one sexual “wrong” against another person, and that when faced with the ethical question of whether to be forthright with all the rest of us (since you already were forthright enough to talk about an apology and your sexual “sins”), you have chosen instead not to do so. This is incompatible with my value system, regardless of the fact that I’m not a court. Criminal convictions are not the sole criterion upon which academic or other cultural “honors” can be revoked; witness, in fact, the many rescissions that have befallen Aung San Suu Kyi of late. I have not seen an outcry about these rescissions despite the fact that she has not been convicted of any crime by a Burmese or international court. What, precisely, makes the allegations against Sherman Alexie less stringent than those that are applied to her? There is no difference: personal and collective value systems are at play here, and in both cases, as different as they are, we can look at what we DO know, and make a reasonable conclusion. If you disagree with the conclusion, naturally, it’s your right. But your argument that because there is no criminal conviction there is no guilt is without merit. Like mine, your decision is a reflection of your values, and so we’ll have to agree to disagree.

        • Dan Hotchkins says:

          So, the only way by which an award can be rescinded from an author or illustrator, is if that author or illustrator has been convicted of a crime? Any type of crime, or are there crimes for which one can be convicted that might not merit the rescission of an award? I don’t think all of us would be in agreement with you that because your book is a “great” book, your own personal actions shouldn’t be considered, or reconsidered, especially if you’ve done something wrong. Works of art do not exist in a moral vacuum.

    • Rase McCray says:

      The burden of proof in court cases is extremely high, as it should be. The *court* affirms that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, requires the state to prove its case beyond a shadow of a doubt, and seeks out a theoretically untainted jury of peers to evaluate the evidence. All of this is because punishment is so severe–jail time, a criminal record, etc.–and we as a people have decided that it is ethically better to let a guilty person go free than to punish an innocent person. (It’s also because of the high burden of proof that defendants are never proven innocent, merely not guilty.)
      But that is by no means the only way to evaluate the merit of a person’s actions, nor is it a given that the court’s methodology is the right one for all situations. For example, let’s say you have two kids and the younger one claims the older one bullies her every time you leave the room. Do you assume innocent until guilty, demand witnesses and physical evidence of bruising/emotional torture, and bring in a jury to weigh the veracity of the claim? Likely not, but neither do you imprison your child for six months for assault and battery. Instead, you probably evaluate the situation and *choose to believe one side.* At first, maybe you believe the older child, deciding, like the court, to risk letting a guilty person go free instead of punishing an innocent. But if it happens again or a third time, you might decide that it’s unlikely the younger child is lying and send the older child to his room and withhold desserts for a week. This evaluation is called a preponderance of evidence, and the punishment is appropriately far below actual imprisonment and a criminal record.
      Or let’s take an example of a crime that a court might actually take up. Casey Anthony received a not guilty verdict in the case of murdering her child. Does this mean that you would and *should* judge her completely in accordance with the court’s findings when evaluating whether to hire her at your daycare? Probably not, even if you believe in radical healing and restorative justice. You maybe would hire her for other work, but context is everything and the punishment (in this case not being able to work with children) fits the evaluation method.
      (Sidebar: Let’s also head off the counterargument that any artistic award is for the body of work, not the person themselves. I won’t go into this too far, but just one glance at these comments shows it’s impossible to separate a person from their art. Art, especially narrative art, is representative of and in relation to life, meaning that it always has moral, political, and personal dimensions, even those unintended by the author. Awards therefore also always have these dimensions, too.)
      Which brings us to Alexie. You are correct that no court has found him guilty, so let’s not throw him in jail for the rest of his life just yet and let’s not burn his books; that would be an inappropriate punishment and we have not met that burden of proof. But similarly, acting towards him in the exact same way as we always have is choosing to believe him and choosing not to believe his *MANY* accusers. For this reason, even a single allegation, assuming you do choose to believe women (especially Native women in this case), can and perhaps should cause you to change your behavior towards the accused, at least in an appropriate measure somewhere between the extremes of doing nothing and throwing him in jail.
      But let’s go even further than a single allegation because at this point we absolutely have a preponderance of evidence that suggests he’s at the very least a bad actor, and we don’t have to actually *know* he’s guilty in a court of law to make that determination. What’s more, we’re not evaluating whether or not to throw him in jail or to buy his books or read his stories, but are instead evaluating whether to go the extra step of giving him an award! Frankly, I’d argue that the ethics for giving an award should be reversed for that of giving a punishment: it is ethically worse to bestow an honor on a guilty person than it is to not bestow that honor on an innocent person. There are many, many, many innocent people who are decent human beings and great artists, all of whom did not get this award, so we know that the punishment for not receiving it is light–no one walks around shaming a writer for not getting this award.
      So let’s sum: 1) we evaluate people everyday, and allegations, even before but especially after they reach a preponderance of evidence, can ethically be part of our evaluations, especially in the statistical context of gender-based harassment and assault, and 2) as our evaluations change, our actions should mirror those evaluations in an appropriate way both for good and bad. Which brings us to the conclusion that Alexie is almost surely not innocent, and likely guilty of something; at the very least, even if nothing he has done is criminal, he’s definitely not an exemplar human being who we should honor and emulate. He’s not deserving of an award, which is why our actions toward him reflect that.
      And true to the AILA statement, there are many such humans who are more honorable and worthy of emulation, and many of them are also great artists. So not only are we rescinding an award, but we’re shining a light on those who deserve it instead: #NotYourPrincess

    • Another Woman says:

      Has he been arrested? Is there a court date? Court of public opinion is not a court of law. The fact that some of you need him to be tried and convicted before you believe women is disgusting.

    • Ishta Mercurio says:

      Due Process applies to his treatment by the law, and by the government. He is not in prison; he is not on trial in any court. Due process does not apply in terms of how we choose to think of him, whether we choose to continue to read his work (or not), or whether we choose to reward him for his work (or not). Several women have come forward with extremely detailed descriptions of what he has said and done to them, and it is our duty to believe those women. And because I believe those women, I choose to support the AILA’s decision. I expect basic decency from people whose work I hold in esteem. Alexie has not met that expectation.

    • agreed. People need to look at Alexie’s behavior with the proper context. Nothing he did was illegal. Was it clumsy, ill-advised, inappropriate? Yes. But all those women could have just walked away. The only power Alexie had over them was inferred. One woman in the NPR article rebuffed Alexie’s pass and he backed off and apologized. I’m sorry, but that’s pretty standard human behavior, whether we like it or not. I think many were holding Alexie to too high a standard because he’s Native American, liberal, etc. Guess what? He’s a man with the same needs and urges as other men. For good or bad. Should he have considered the fact that these women may have looked up to him due to his celebrity and therefore he may have been in a superior position? Sure, but, once again, in any type of relationship, one person usually makes more money or has a superior status when it comes to their profession or social position. We should look at his intent — which just seems to be that of a regular horny guy. All this abject horror and pearl-clutching over relatively few and not that terrible accusations is pretty sad.

      • Mel C: Yes, agreed, thank you. We are all complex, imperfect, and actually deeply flawed in most cases. I can understand AILA’s decision. But I could also understand if they chose to leave it alone, letting him keep an award they gave him ten years ago. The work for which he won the award did not change. The image we had of Sherman Alexie, that is what changed. Further, though, what did that image change TO? Did he in fact break the law? Did he harass women by the legal definition? Or was he just, as Mel notes, “a regular horny guy,” who made women uncomfortable (and perhaps men as well), and who may or may not have broken vows (I don’t know what kind of marriage he had, nor is it any of my business). I don’t know how we draw a line between a Weinstein and an Alexie (or a Louie CK), or where that line should be drawn (intent, perhaps?); but I do hope we can sort through this and come out better citizens on all sides.

      • He used his position as a renowned author to prey on new authors, offering them mentoring and support in their careers to get them into his bed. He betrayed emerging Native American voices (of which there are far too few published as it is) for his own sexual gratification.

        He traded on his awards and celebrity to exploit women in his profession who wanted to learn from him. Just because his workplace isn’t in an office building doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of sexual harassment. And his actions are sexual harassment.

        He is a predator. If those are the kind of “horny guys” you come into contact on a regular basis, you need new friends.

      • If you’re saying that we have to excuse him for being a ‘regular horny guy,’ will you please explain why? Is it normal to sexualize men in this way, to teach boys and young men that they are supposed to see women for their sexual potential versus for seeing women as PEOPLE? Why are you continuing to encourage toxic masculinity? Why is it normal to expect guys to be horny? As much as you are sexualizing women, you’re sexualizing men – I didn’t realize that men are horny 24/7, must be painful.

    • Guys, Sherman Alexie is not the only native writer to ever put pen to paper. Sure, it was easy to feel like you could read just one book and get the whole of the native experience, but even before the accusations, this was a myth. Go read some other books, find some new voices. Your reading lists will thank you, and so will natives who are crying out for their stories to be heard.

      Sherman Alexie admitted to treating women like garbage. Find a new hero, preferably one who didn’t. And in the meantime, rest assured that he’s not going to jail. He simply got his name taken off a website, so you can keep your constitutional arguments.

    • This isn’t a situation that calls for due process. AILA isn’t sending him to jail. They’re taking away an award that they feel he no longer deserves. He admitted wrongdoing; they don’t want a wrongdoer to have their award. It’s that simple. It’s immaterial whether he broke the law; this is not a criminal matter. This is a civil matter and the AILA doesn’t want to be represented by someone who has done great wrong.

  2. Personally I applaud AILA for standing with victims.

    • In their letter, AILA expresses their support for “the people harmed by Sherman Alexie” (a careful choice of words) but I think it’s a disservice to victims of sexual assault to refer to these women as victims, as you do. According to the NPR article about those women who stepped forward, by their own admission these are individuals who maintained relationships with Alexie, a married man, even after he sexually harrassed them, because they recognized his power to help them get ahead in their careers. Alexie’s behavior towards these women was unacceptable and unprofessional, but I think that characterizing them as victims is going too far.

      • Stacey S says:

        You’re right, I mischarazcterized them. He still abused his relationship with these women, and from what I understand, threatened to derail their careers if they came forward. So I applaud AILA for standing with the women that he harmed.

        • “from what I understand, threatened to derail their careers if they came forward”. Details? Not one woman has stepped forward giving a specific instance where he did this. “From what I understand”=gossip which was started by a bitter ex-lover.

          • Rase McCray says:

            First off, your implication that all of this boils down to “gossip started by a bitter ex-lover” is seemingly meant to invalidate the fact that NPR talked to and verified the identities of 10 separate women who were harassed or assaulted by Alexie. In other words, we have a preponderance of evidence that Alexie is likely a serial predator.

            Second, your attack on the phrase “threatened to derail their careers” completely ignores the huge imbalance in power between him and each of these women. For years, he has been considered the most powerful and important native writer, and even this article refers to him as a legend. He absolutely *could* make or break a career, and as such his M.O. has generally been to prey on young women who were at the start of their careers, women who were explicitly contacting him for mentorship or blurbs. We see this in the NPR article.

            Third, the YES Magazine article explicitly contains an example of him derailing another author’s career: It started when Elissa Washuta and Alexie became colleagues at The Institute of American Indian Arts; because she rebuffed his attempt to lure her into his hotel room, he accused her of plagiarism. Though Washuta insists there was no plagiarism, Alexie “told me it was in my best interests to make the essay and all mentions of it disappear from the internet and never reprint it, called the originality of all my work into question, and implied that someone might be inquiring about the essay in an official capacity.” This is the very definition of threatening to derail her career, and in fact she did ask the publication to remove the essay, fearful for her academic career, and subsequently felt she had no choice but to leave IAIA.

  3. Is a good book or not? Is the work worthy of the award? No one is perfect in all. Give credit where credit is due and punish he who had misbehave. or broken laws.

  4. Nina Lindsay says:

    The American Indian Library Association (AILA) is a valued organization within the national library community that addresses the library-related needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. I trust and deeply appreciate their work to ensure that their youth literature awards “represented the very best” for their communities.

  5. Sarah Z. says:

    How are you vetting all other authors? I’m very concerned about banning books and there has been a lot of talk about eliminating Alexie from school classrooms. Haven’t we learned how to teach? How do we weigh the value of his books to the reader against the punishment of the author? Yes, there are other outstanding books that can be added to the syllabus (and the existing tokenism issue is an industry issue…Alexie didn’t invent it). But, this doesn’t take away from the importance of this book.

    • Dan Hotchkins says:

      Is your “How do we weigh the value of his books to the reader against the punishment of the author?” question rhetorical? If it is not, I am curious as to how you yourself perform this “measurement”. When do an author’s “bad” actions keep educators from sharing that author’s books with students, if ever? I look forward to your answer. Thanks!

      • It was sort of rhetorical! I’m trying to figure out how to talk about it and would be interested in how others will deal. In following this story over the last few weeks, I’ve read about many teachers and librarians dropping The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (and Flight) from their classrooms (and some are seeking a token replacement). This seems extremely lazy to me. Educators need to teach within history and culture – including the ugliness. Is SLJ and AILA expecting educators to cleanse their shelves? Is that really what they are saying by rescinding this award? Roald Dahl was an womanizer and adulterer (and possibly anti-Semitic)…yet remains a favorite and you’d be hard pressed to find a library without him. Once kids are old enough (sometimes not until the college level), maybe it would be appropriate to talk about the author’s misconduct within society and how it impacts how we look at the literature. But, at a younger age, I believe we can focus on the books – the characters, the plot lines, the language, the challenges, the inspiration, the connections to the readers’ lives. I agree about someone above suggesting that AILA honors role models – but this action seems premature (or perhaps 10 years late), particularly with the complexity of this story. I personally feel like Alexie’s greatest dishonor was to his wife. The NPR quotes show that the women sought him out for mentoring and he didn’t respond as a mentor. He seemingly backed off when they said “no” and apologized in the moment.

        The deeper accusations – and the deeper problems – are about him as a gatekeeper for all other Native authors. But, I really don’t know how he should be punished for holding a role that was formed by the entire publishing industry. He has helped lift other Native authors/filmmakers/artists – both men and women. He hasn’t helped some who have sought help…some of whom said they were directed to do anything they could to get a blurb from him. I’ve read that he can be a jerk and hold controversial opinions – but that it is separate from sexual misconduct (and those characteristics were well-known when he received this award). The testimonials to NPR (which I can only assume were very well-vetted and that they covered the worse situations) really show that there are layers and layers of issues – and due process doesn’t fit within this particular structure. It seems that Alexie’s tokenism exists in the metoo movement, too – he is getting the brunt of many generations of misogyny, trauma, and abuse. It is good to bring these issues to the spotlight but based on all the articles I’ve read and listened to, the spotlight is misdirected on Alexie-the-adulterer.

        Regarding your possible question about how bad does an author have to be to have educators refuse to share with students, I don’t know! It seems it should be directly related to the book’s content.

        I am going to continue recommending his books and am trying to figure out how to talk about him, the #metoo #timesup movement, and this time in history.

        • AILA rescinded an award. It is not banning or censoring a book.

        • @Lara – I know AILA rescinded a ten year old award (no problem with that) which is disctinctively different than banning or censoring. I guess I’m on a bit of a tangent relating to Alexie and teaching. I’m referring to what American Indians in Children’s Literature is promoting – I’d interpret it as erasure. Debbie Reese (as you can see in her link below) has redacted 11 years of AICL posts relating to Alexie. Her open letter reiterates ideas she stated in previous years about her dislike of his writing (prior to sexual misconduct news). “He’s also undermined Native writers and writing in this way: his books feed mainstream expectations. Alexie’s books don’t give readers the depth of understanding that they need to know who we are, what our histories have been, what we face on a daily basis, and what gives us strength to carry on. Far too many people adore him and think they’re hip to Native life because they read his books. If you’re one of those people, please set his books aside. Read other native writers. Don’t inadvertently join him in hurting other Native writers.” I’ve also seen quite a few tweets and other articles noted in Debbie’s timeline that talk about removing Alexie from curricula. That is what I’m referring to. Defining mainstream expectations, and criticizing literature that fits these, bothers me because I’ve seen this book be the hook for a hesitant reader. It works. At the same time, I completely agree that we should be reading many Native authors and be able to talk about each story as an individual experience (and, I appreciate her vetting of cultural accuracy in children’s lit). I agree about pushing boundaries and feel like adding tokenism to the curriculum discussion is interesting and applicable (far less interesting than talking about the author’s adultery as it isn’t really related to the text). Sorry for the tangent – not meant to detract from the women who have come forward with their stories. This article is about an award, not women. I guess I’m less inclined to drop a book that has changed so many students’ (and other writers) lives. I feel like I can hold these things in a balance of sorts.

          • @Sarah Z, thank you for your response. It does sound like you can hold these things in a balance! For the record, I like “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and I’m not taking Alexie’s books off my library shelves, just providing context so people can make informed choices. Further, in making the decision to take a stance, the AILA executive board thoroughly discussed all the points of view mentioned in the comments here–in fact, I brought up many of these ideas for debate myself.
            But talking over these issues with the committee informed my opinion more fully. Not only does an endorsement imply “moral” support of the author, it also promotes actual sales, which results in monetary gain for the author; the American Indian Youth Literature Award also includes its own separate monetary award. And publishers explicitly refer to the AIYLA in promotional materials and on the covers of books. AILA did not feel comfortable having its name associated with Alexie’s at this time. As my colleague Anne wrote, “if I were to recommend a book to someone and say that the author as an individual is problematic but the quality of writing is so good that we should ignore what they did, I’d be saying that the book is more important than the pain of the people that creator hurt. I’m not willing to do that.”
            One last point: no one else, including ALA, other ethnic affiliates, or groups representing tribal libraries or children’s librarians, had spoken out, and someone had to. AILA felt it was up to us to take the lead—and the heat—for that decision. It was an internal decision conveyed on a closed listserv to AILA members, but I’m excited that librarians and allies are paying so much attention to the AIYLA! See you at ALA’s Youth Media Awards next year!

          • Thank you, @Lara! Providing context is key – not ignoring but addressing the problem. That context has to be age appropriate. That is the tricky part (I had a typo above – I meant to say that I think the tokenism issue is a much more interesting discussion point for high schoolers than adultery – and tokenism can be woven into the story line of the book). I have been thinking of the monetary benefit to the author. If you already own the books, there is no further financial benefit to him. I hadn’t thought about the AILA award being a monetary award. Does that mean he has to give the money back to AILA?

  6. Hi, Kara–

    I’m extremely disappointed by your reporting of this story.

    1) You never mention that allegations against Alexie first began in your publication’s own comment section.

    2) You never mention nor link to the NPR, KUOW, and Yes! Magazine stories in which multiple women go on and off the record about Alexie’s sexual harassment, threats, and bullying.

    3) You don’t mention he released his false and defamatory statement before these stories came out.

    4) You drag me into your story in the worst possible way, ignoring that everything I’ve alleged has been proven and then some. And, as you know, I’ve been vetted by NPR both legally and editorially, as have all the women who spoke to NPR.

    5) Then, in an egregious act of misogyny, you link to my twitter account instead of my author site. B/c apparently, my entire career can now be eradicated b/c I was the first person to confront Alexie. Jesus.

    Litsa Dremousis

    Litsa Dremousis is the author of “Altitude Sickness” (Future Tense Books). Seattle Metropolitan Magazine named it one of the all-time “20 Books Every Seattleite Must Read”. Her essay “After the Fire” was selected as one of the “Most Notable Essays 2011” by Best American Essays, she’s a Contributing Editor at The Weeklings, and The Seattle Weekly named her one of “50 Women Who Rock Seattle”.

    She is an essayist with The Washington Post and her work appears in The Believer, BlackBook, Esquire, Jezebel, McSweeney’s, Monkeybicycle, MSN, New York Magazine, Nerve, Nylon, The Onion’s A.V. Club, Paste, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Salon, The Weeklings, on NPR, KUOW, and additional venues. She has interviewed Sherman Alexie, The Black Keys, Betty Davis (the legendary, reclusive soul singer), Death Cab for Cutie, Estelle, Jenifer Lewis, Janelle Monae, Alanis Morissette, Kelly Rowland, Wanda Sykes, Rufus Wainwright, Ann Wilson and several dozen others. @LitsaDremousis, litsadremousis.com.

    • I’m glad your not using this to forward your own career or anything. It’s also weird that you had no problem having an affair with this guy despite knowing he is married. I don’t know Alexie but you sure don’t seem to have any moral highground either.

      • *you’re
        *high ground
        Yeah, I don’t know Alexie either but if women step forward and say he did these things — not just an isolated case, but a ton of them — I tend to believe them.

    • R.A. Lyon says:

      I was shocked when I first read about Sherman Alexie’s actions. The first stories were vague and appeared to be gossip based. After reading more detailed stories, I was troubled. Do I continue reading his writings?
      Let’s hope more people read the work of other Native writers.

      I am troubled by the post by Lista Dremousis. The story is no longer about her. Why did she feel the need to included the biographical information in her post? It comes across as cashing in on the story or calling attention to herself? I heard her interviewed on KBOO in Portland. She mentioned two new books, Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot and There There by Tommy Orange. In passing, she mentioned by books were praised by Sherman Alexie. Listening between the words, there was the feeling Ms Dremousis was dismissing the books and hinting because of Alexie’s praise neither book was worth reading. To me, this was a less than subtle way of undermining Mailhot and Orange! Shame!

      • Rase McCray says:

        I’m not going to address everything you said, but you definitely said “the story is no longer about her.” Look back at paragraph three of the article itself and you’ll see she is the *only* accuser mentioned by name. Whether she wants it or not, it still very much is about her.
        Moreover, because accusers are often steamrolled by the press and doubted and criticized by public opinion (look at Jane’s comment right above yours for an example), I can very much understand why Dremousis would adopt a strategy of going out of her way to reassert that she is not JUST an accuser and that said moniker should not be her defining characteristic. People may disagree with her strategy, but she is trying her best to not become a footnote in Alexie’s downfall by reminding us that she’s a human being and an author herself.

      • LD is not an accuser. She has simply taken it upon herself to act as point person between the accusers and the press and then used the information gathered to both promote herself and lead the take-down of her former lover Alexie. Jane’s comments were neither out of line or directed against any accuser.

    • I believe you, Litsa, and stand with you. Your career shouldn’t be erased or overwritten by your courage in speaking out.

  7. Mike Jung says:

    Alexie has not been convicted in a court of law, and in that context, AILA is being 100% appropriate by not fining him, giving him community service, or sentencing him to prison time. Not that they could, of course. Like Nina, I thoroughly appreciate the important work being done by AILA. They aren’t just declaring their ideals; they’re doing everything they can to live by them.

  8. Beverly Slapin says:

    I applaud the American Indian Library Association for their courageous action. Above all, AILA stands for the children first, and I appreciate the important work that they do. REPRESENT!

  9. Patty Carleton says:

    Whether or not Alexie did what he was accused of, his book is still a significant piece of literature–life-changing and affirming for many Native American youth, and impactful for many youth of color. Do not recommend the book because the author may or may not have done some offensive things does not see right to me. The award is meant to honor the book, not condone the possible behavior of the author. I worry that we are denying access to quality literature. I can’t help but think, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    • Alexie is a living artist and you can’t separate the artist from the art–or from the damage he’s done and the women’s art we’ve lost as a consequence. This piece says it all, to me: http://www.katykatikate.com/2018/02/sherman-alexie-and-million-dollar.html

    • Dwayne M. says:

      “this book is still a significant piece of literature–life-changing and affirming for many Native American youth, and impactful for many youth of color.”

      Where’s the research for this? Or is it anecdotal? And if it’s anecdotal, how many Native communities have you lived in and what surveys did you take to come to those conclusions? I’ve been looking for information about Native reading statistics and have not been able to find any.

  10. Julie Corsaro says:

    This strikes me as a a slippery slope. While I can understand the American Indian Library Association denouncing Sherman Alexie, who has admitted vaguely to abusive behavior, it seems the association is denying its own history. Having given the award to Part-Time Indian, I assume the association found the book to have considerable literary and other merits ten years ago. On a related note: ALA/ALSC is considering changing the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award; I believe on the basis of statements about and attitudes towards American Indians in the Little House books. Will stripping the Little House books of their Newbery Honors come next? What about David Diaz who has also been accused of sexual abuse/harassment? Should he lose his Caldecott Medal for Smokey Night? The Newbery and Caldecott Awards have been around for a long time. As a result, I think its fair to assume that there’s something in many of these books that people could find offensive today. Should these books lose their medals, too?

    • Nina Lindsay says:

      Julie, I think it’s critical that readers here understand the difference between AILA and its awards, and ALSC and it awards. AILA has a unique responsibility, as its Executive Board has noted, in speaking out on this particular matter. I see it as claiming their history, not denying it. While wise to watch the “slippery slope,” it should never keep us from pushing boundaries.

      • Julie Corsaro says:

        Nina: My first inclination was to make the distinction between AILA and ALA, which you and Terese addressed. But I wasn’t the first to make the connection between the two associations, which could reasonably be taken to imply that ALA endorses the actions of AILA in rescinding the award. Additionally, I first saw the AILA letter posted on alsc-l. From there, it wasn’t hard to think about the implications regarding the Laura Ingalls Wilders Award for ALSC, particularly given the larger context of longstanding efforts to discredit and remove LIW’s books from libraries.

        I appreciate that you acknowledge the slippery slope, and hope that “pushing boundaries” includes input from a wide swath of our association’s members. For my part, I know that I can be reticent to voice my opinion or ask questions when accusations of racism and misogyny are flung about, which can happen easily in an online forum, and as has happened here. Such accusations don’t help the decision making process, silence voices that might raise legitimate questions and concerns, and take the focus away from important issues, personalizing them, instead.

        I’m sure you will act with integrity and respect as you always do in overseeing the Wilder Task Force.

      • If it’s critical, please help me understand the difference. Why does AILA have a unique responsibility in speaking out on this particular matter, but ALSC doesn’t? I think a similar rescinsion from ALSC would signal that those committees of prestigious awards, such as the Odyssey and Newbery, no longer support the accused abusers, and it would signal solidarity with AILA. Will the ALSC really allow First/Native Nations to alone carry the burden of challenging systemic harassment?

        To riff off Mike’s comment above: We hear ALSC declaring their ideals; is ALSC doing everything they can to live by them?

    • Jenny Thurman says:

      It’s useful to actually look at the awards and read what they are for.

      AILA’s American Indian Youth Literature Awards “were established as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians.”

      And the organization itself exists to “improve library and information services for American Indians” – so the awards’ purpose exists within that larger context as well.

      Alexie’s actions are not only contrary to the organization as a whole,

      But since he targeted other Native American artists and his actions had a chilling effect on others’ work, they run counter to the mission of the awards in particular.

      • Thanks for the response, Jenny. You’re right. The language in the About ALSC page doesn’t say anything about improving “library and information services for American Indians”. It just says they’re “dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.” And the Youth Media awards page doesn’t mention anything about being “established as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians.” Only that they’re awarded to “encourage original and creative work in the field of children’s and young adult literature and media.”

        At ALSC right now they’re probably kicking themselves for sticking to such generalized language. I bet they’re saying to themselves, “Argh! We really like what AILA did and we wish we could stand by them in solidarity against the status quo and systemic harassment, not just in word but in deed, but we can’t! Ugh! Because what Alexie and others are accused of just run counter to our organization as a whole and not to the mission of our awards in particular! Sigh. Oh well, our hands are tied. Nothing else to be done about it.”

        Case closed, I guess.

  11. To be honest, I am a woman and I feel very uncomfortable with this all. This story was started by a woman Alexie had an affair with. She was not forthcoming about this but made it sound like he was a serial rapist. The NPR story details one lewd comment he made to a woman and 2 times he made passes at women. Since he is married I don’t condone that, but the only major wrong was done to his wife. I notice both women expressed disappointment their relationship with him didn’t lead to career advance for them. Those who have piled on make it clear their animosity with him is because one of the following: 1) he doesn’t always portray Natives in a positive light 2) they met him and he was kind of rude 3) he doesn’t do enough to promote other Native writers 4) they wish Native women writers got more attention 5)they are envious of the enormous amount of attention and praise he gets.
    I will keep reading his books. It is clear the outrage is mostly due to vindictiveness and envy. I don’t see the women he made passes at as victims. They were adults and had the option of declining to be involved with him. This is 99% pettiness. My sympathy for Alexie’s wife. Those who had an affair with him (and I realize not all of the women coming forward did, but the woman who started this all had) don’t have much to complain about since they knowing got involved with a married man with kids.

    • Debbie Reese says:

      No, Tara, that is not where it started.

      Public (anon) comments about him started right here, on SLJ, a few weeks ago.

      Then, some Native women were willing to speak on the record to NPR, who verified what the women said. Your misread of what they said is how you choose to read it, but you are ignoring the fact that NPR spoke to other women, too, who did not feel safe in speaking up. Your comments are a perfect example of why women do not speak up. That sort of response keeps systemic harassment in place.

  12. Debbie Reese says:

    FFS!

    What happened to “Believe Women”?

    Why are so many of you questioning Native people and thoughtfully rendered decisions we make?

    Why are so many of you questioning Native women?!

    Why are so many of you selectively using experiences of Native women to DISCREDIT them?!

    • The fact that a dozen or so Native women condemn Alexie doesn’t mean all Native women do. Have you taken a poll on how Native women feel or just cherry picked the ones who say what you want? Have you asked his wife? Isn’t she Native? Aren’t you discrediting her by not giving her a voice? You make it sound like he was a serial rapist when it sounds like he had a consensual relationship with a few and made an R rated comment to another. All the women (Native and non-Native) expressed disappointment that he did not do more for their careers. All the women coming forward, including you Debbie, have used these allegations to try and further their careers. It makes me ashamed to be a woman. And I am Native btw. I wonder why the women who chose to get involved with a married man are being treated like victims. They had no problem hurting his Native wife did they? And they all did it to further their careers and are now playing the victim card because it didn’t work out well for them. Crass opportunism at its finest.

    • Wow, you deleted my response. Apparently Native women can’t be spoken back to. My sympathy is with Alexie’s Native wife, not those Native and non-Native women who chose to get involved with him.

    • R.A. Lyon says:

      Ms Reese – When the first stories appeared in the Seattle Times and The Stranger, things were vague. Now that I have read the articles in both papers and online blogs, I Believe The Women.

      I am not going to comment about the decision to resend the award. Do what you want!

      Now what? Do you want all libraries to remove Sherman Alexie’s books from the shelves? Do you want all bookstores to stop selling his books? Do you want to burn his books in the Public Square? Do you want this publishers to stop publishing his books? I am not asking because I support him or i don’t believe women.

      • Debbie Reese says:

        No. I want people to get to know other writers. I want people to see that he gives readers one story, and that the one story is–to some of us–problematic, especially in the context of what he says elsewhere about Native people. See my post here:
        https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2018/03/native-american-literary-symposiums.html

        As an educator who care very much for the kinds of materials that children are assigned to read, I think a lot of his work feeds stereotypical ideas and creates an ethos where it is fine to mock Native names. I see that in DIARY but especially in his picture book. So–I choose not to recommend his books, and I say why I do not recommend them. I am not burning them. I am not throwing them in the trash can either. I am not asking people to remove them from shelves. I am asking for people to get to know other writers, and to stop holding him and his books as THE one writer to know.

  13. Debbie Reese says:

    What happened to “BELIEVE WOMEN”?

    Why are so many non-Native people casting doubt on Native women?

    Why are so many non-Native people standing in judgement of Native people and our decisions?

    • Nice use of the race card Debbie. You and the handful of other Natives condemning Alexie don’t speak for all Natives. Given that you are the others have used it to forward your own careers and make it clear your takedown of Alexie has more to do with envy and anger that he didn’t always portray Natives in a positive light and didn’t do more for you, I can’t take you or the others serious. You come across as leaches.

      • Tara, I am non-Native and I was part of the decision-making process for AILA. I find your comment above deeply offensive. I can’t believe you’re making me play the race card to announce myself as White, but if that’s what it takes: I’m White, I was part of the decision to rescind the award, doing so in no way forwards my own career, and I harbor no envy towards Alexie. But I do stand by our decision not to honor him as a role model for youth. Are my credentials enough for you to take me “serious,” or am I a too “leach”?

      • Tara,
        Chicanx and white here but my grandfather was Cora Indian (I’m not sure how that effects my overall score).
        Your accusation that scholars who publicly speak out about Alexie’s work are doing so only to “to forward your own careers and make it clear your takedown of Alexie has more to do with envy and anger” is truly bizarre. By that logic no one who does scholarship, and I include myself in this, in Children’s Literature should be a part of the conversation. Or, perhaps ONLY Non-Native/Indigenous Children’s Literature scholars should engage? Or, wait, maybe only people who spend zero time reading, writing, and thinking about Children’s Literature, representation, and have a deeply rooted understanding of Native and Indigenous cultures should engage?
        No. You are slapping the “race card” accusation on this conversation because you do not agree and you are angry and possibly hurt. That is understandable, but I would suggest taking your anger out on those who are bringing these issues to light is misplaced. Instead, direct that anger at the person who betrayed the trust of women within his community.

      • Rene Saldana says:

        I wonder, Tara, (assuming you’re an educator, though I may be wrong), when you use or recommend a book by a person of color, so you say, for instance, “Alexie, who is Native American…” or “Walter Dean Myers, who’s African American…”? I ask b/c you don’t care for Reese to be dropping the race card, but isn’t that what you’d be doing saying a book is by a Black, a Brown, a Red, a Yellow?

      • *leeches

      • Beverly Slapin says:

        Hey, Tara. I’m white (Jewish), as were my ancestors going way back. Young Man #1 is Puerto Rican (as was his father), and Young Man #2 is Colombian. One of our dogs, now deceased, was part Malamute and part wolf. I’m an educator and writer, Young Man #1 is a registered veterinary technician, and Young Man 2 works in a Mexican restaurant. I don’t generally “speak for all Natives” and I am not generally “vindictive” or “envious.” OK?

        I believe and stand with all those Native women who have come forward and with all those Native and non-Native people who support them, and I stand with AILA and the difficult decision they made.

      • Pete Silas says:

        Tara you are right to a certain extent, no one is worse than Indians when it comes to the “crab in the barrel” syndrome. We weren’t always like that though, we learned that from Europeans, the way white people lived in caves and through the ice ages fucked them up, made them believe everything was scarce and that everything had to be fought over or you wouldn’t survive. that’s a white thing, it’s not ours but we’ve become like that. Sherman was that way too, you think he ever did much for other male Indian artists? other than use them? He was a user and that’s where the majority of the anger comes from, you want to use the culture to pad your pockets, use peoples lives and stories for your own enrichment for your own ego. Indians didn’t like it and didn’t have a chance to say anything until now. Then we have the myriad stories of how he just demeaned his own kind, no doubt out of some kind of self-loathing and because it was safe to do so. As far as the women here, I agree somewhat, I don’t see a whole lot that he did that was really even that newsworthy. Some of these women do sound like they are just pissed that they didn’t get further and they sound sheisty to me, especially the one who went to his room not once but twice, something is wrong with that woman. From my male Indian perspective, all I can say is that native women have access to opportunities that us males get shut out of because we are men, i’ve experienced it, the white college professor who runs an indian program with mostly young indian females in it and he had no use for me. those kinds of things, being considered some kind of threat or not being necessary is what us native men who have talent have to go through. Note that everyone is bitching about tokenism and why Shermie is the only writer, they point to all these other writers, who are mostly female. Me too and women in general have to accept the fact that their sex might cause them problems but it also opens a lot of doors, I understand it. I mean, I’d rather be around women than men anytime but if we’re talking any kind of meritocracy, well that is and always was a joke to begin with. My personal gripe is, us males have no place, none, absolutely none that don’t require we neuter ourselves, emasculate ourselves, shut our mouths and while that is expected from the white world, you get a guy like Shermie and many others who do the same thing to their own kind and it’s bound to leave a little resentment. What he’s going through and why is not even fair but I can’t say I care, what most of us go through is a lot worse, i guarantee you.

    • Debbie Reese says:

      For those of you who want to see additional responses–many from Native people–to Alexie’s harassment, I’ve been maintaining a TIMELINE underneath my Open Letter. Here’s the link to my Open Letter, and then I’ll do another two comments with links to two of the ones that I found exceptionally well written.

      https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2018/02/an-open-letter-about-sherman-alexie.html

    • Nomenclature says:

      You say, “Believe women.” Many say, “Listen carefully, then verify assiduously.” As for what happened to Believe Women, it died on Emma Sulkowicz’s mattress.

    • I don’t think the issue is whether people believe the Native women. The accounts on NPR are both believable and credible. The harassment is serious and tragic, and there is a maelstrom of emotions over the issue that need to be expressed. The issue is that there are aspects of the way this story has unfolded online before and after the vetted story came out, that are troubling.

  14. Dan Hotchkins says:

    I think that it’s particularly important to note the first paragraph from the NPR story:

    “Writer Sherman Alexie last week issued a statement admitting he “has harmed” others, after rumors and allegations began to circulate about sexual harassment. Without providing details, Alexie said “there are women telling the truth,” and he apologized to the people he has hurt. Now, some of those women have come forward to speak to NPR about their experiences with him.”

    Alexie said “there are women telling the truth”. Which women, and which truth? And again, why so vague? Coded language to some, but obfuscation to many of the rest of us.

    The devil is in the details, as we know, and he’s been absolutely on the details. Unless there’s a judge compelling his silence, which seems doubtful, as no court cases have been referenced by any of the parties involved, Mr. Alexie is choosing to obfuscate what happened, while giving the appearance of being apologetic to people whom he has hurt.

    Or, something.

  15. Jan Chapman says:

    If the award was to honor the author, I support this decision. If it was to honor the book, I do not. Let books stand or fall on their own merit. Condemn the actions of the author, yes. Do you know how many books would be banned if we based our decision on the behavior of the author?

  16. Elisa Gall says:

    I’m reading through so many of these comments. My heart hurts for the victims (many of whom are Native women) and those at AILA who had this decision to make. I believe the victims and trust the AILA made the decision necessary to live by their core values. I stand by them and thank them for their courage and leadership.

    Harvey Weinstein no longer has his 2001 honorary degree from Buffalo. Charlie Rose no longer has his Allen Foundation Award from Kansas University, or the Walter Cronkite award from Arizona State. Roger Ailes no longer has a newsroom named after him at OU, etc. etc. Every institution has policies about rescinding such awards, or they are coming to terms with them or creating them now. I think it is worth noting that when an ALA book award (committee is usually only 15 people) is announced, people aren’t digging into the names and qualifications of each of those members to prove that they are only a representative sample of a larger group. That’s a privilege White people on majority-White committees get.

    I am noticing a pattern where so many of us White people ignore the sovereignty of Native Nations until it is convenient to use the diversity of Indigenous communities for the argument we are trying to make, and we will openly start naming (USING) our other contacts and colleagues to point to dissent in a community (when this dissent supports our opinion, of course). As a presenter in a SLJ webinar on cultural competence just last week reminded librarians, not everyone can be a victim of oppression – but anyone can be an agent.

    I am also thinking about courts and the law, since so many of you bring it up. When has looking at what “the law” says ever been a dependable compass for truth or equity?

    • Stephanie R says:

      The Constitution guarantees due process, not just a random law.

      • Elisa Gall says:

        Taking an award away from someone is not a violation of due process.

      • This is not a court of law. This is an issue of ethics. The AILA is taking an ethical stand, not a legal one.

      • Due process is a legal term used only in legal situations. Alexie can’t be convicted of rape, for example, without due process. But due process has NOTHING to do with non-legal things, like losing an award, or getting called out by the public. There is no legal injustice going on here.

    • Sarah M. says:

      This is an excellent reply. Well said.

      I believe the accusers.

  17. Sarah H. says:

    Reading through these comments, the combined racism and misogyny are breathtaking. This anger at the American Indian Library Association for making an independent decision about its own award is directly related to anger from non-Natives at Native sovereignty more generally — which is in turn directly tied to violence against Native women.

    My full support is with the Native women who have come forward to speak about the harm Alexie has done, and with those who have felt unable to come forward. I appreciate the AILA’s decision, and respect the AILA’s knowledge about how best to serve Native communities and readers.

    I hope too that School Library Journal will look at the editorial decisions they have made with the publication of this piece (including its authorship, and whose voices it includes and centers.) As evident in the above comments, the framing of articles such as this affect the ensuing conversation.

    And, shame on anyone using this as an opportunity to spew invective at the American Indian Library Association or at Native women, or to cast doubt on Native women who have spoken out about their experiences of sexual assault and harassment.

    • Stephanie R says:

      Please quote the racist statements being made in these comments. Simply because someone disagrees with a decision does not constitute racism nor misogyny. A cry to not “race to judgement” and to not condemn someone based on innuendo and “he said/she said” rather than in a court of law is merely saying we cannot let justice go unserved to anyone. Due process is a right.

      And sometimes people do lie about abuse. A coworker’s life was ruined when a student accused him of abuse. The student had a witness. It went to court (and he had already been crucified in public) where the girls were repeatedly asked about the day it happened. They swore beyond a shadow of a doubt which day it was and how they knew it was definitely that day. Then the school attendance records were brought into evidence. Both had been absent that entire week. On the stand the accuser broke down and admitted it was all a lie to give credence to a lawsuit her parents wanted to file against the school system so “they could be rich.” Now, the accusations were front page news, as was the arrest. Do you think the case being thrown out of court made the news at all? It did not. He was exonerated legally but the shadow ruined his teaching career.

      While most women would never lie about something so serious, due process exists for the above reason.

      • Cristina Rhodes says:

        You’re making a false equivalency between what happened to your coworker and the women who Alexie abused. I’ve read your comments and replies detailing this story and while I feel for your coworker and his pain–that is not what is happening here with Alexie. He is not being falsely accused for monetary gain. In fact, many of the Native women who have spoken out against him did so at the risk of their own careers. What’s more, while court rulings are important, they are not the only metric of guilt (or innocence). In situations such as this, it comes to the community to take action. The AILA is a major voice within the Native literary community and they chose to take extrajudicial measures, as is their right.

        The racism I believe Sarah is referring to is the discrediting of AILA’s decision and the anti-Native women sentiment being tossed out carelessly in these comments. We MUST believe these women. Anything less is tantamount to racism and misogyny. Do not be complicit in their oppression.

    • Jenny Thurman says:

      I just want to highlight this bit of Sarah H’s post:

      “This anger at the American Indian Library Association for making an independent decision about its own award is directly related to anger from non-Natives at Native sovereignty more generally — which is in turn directly tied to violence against Native women.”

      because THIS

  18. Thanks to those who have spoken up in defense of the women who have come forward (and, of course, thank you to the women who have come forward), and thank you to AILA for making such a clear and thoughtful statement. Your contributions are true and valuable and necessary and brave.

  19. I was unable to react to this article online this morning. Instead I tweeted out my reactions (easier to do on a phone) but I am now in my office, reading through this trash heap of comments and my reactions still seem appropriate.
    AILA stands for AMERICAN INDIAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION. Notice the first 2 words ? Native American. Then there are the last bit , the LA … as in LIBRARIANS. That means that a bunch of Native American and allied librarians who read, write and think about the representation of Native Americans in books are running the show. They decided to rescind the award.
    As non-Native and Indigenous folks we (White people, Black people, Latinx people, Asians … all of us) need to listen because they are telling us what matters to them and I am going to guess that was NOT an easy or light decision – as a matter of fact, they tell us that in the announcement ! It is our job to listen the experts (AILA) and to learn from them because Alexie isn’t unique in our field. Instead, we need to recognize that the AILA is out front on this issue and showing us how to deal with authors who’s choices are implicated in @anneursu ‘s #metoo piece and elsewhere. And, it is this part that smacks of misogyny … Alexie made choices about how to talk and act towards these women – multiple women. He is responsible for those actions – no one else is responsible for the way he treated women. No matter who he wants to blame, or who you decide to blame, his actions were conscious, focused, and purposeful. And, for the folks in the back, ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES, even for authors you like, admire, and honor. Having this award rescinded, not erased, is a consequence.

    • Thank you. I hate, to the very marrow of my bones, the need of holier-than-thou people to attack the victims, especially if they’re Native. What kinds of books would we have had from them if Alexie hadn’t attacked them and blackmailed them the way he had? Hope is the cruelest trick a heart can play — and there he was, dangling hopes for publication, for a career, in front of these women, and threatening to blacken their names if they didn’t comply. He could have done so much good in the world. But he chose to raise himself by stepping on others, many of which could have beat him at his own game. That’s what gets me the most. The he** with him. He is trash and I am done.

      And yes, I’m perfectly fine with clearing out books written by trash people so we can elevate books by people who work hard and have a moral compass. Saying “We can’t get rid of this book! It’s part of the canon!” is lazy. You can make a new canon, one that is inclusive and diverse. But you have to raise up those voices! Raise them up and stop raising up people like Alexie.

      AILA is doing the right thing. I’d be very happy to see others do the same.

  20. Anonymous Observer says:

    The decision to rescind the award is a mistake. The book stands on its own. Rescinding awards because of personal conduct by an award-winner is a terrible precedent. Please agitate to pull back Rev. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize.

    As for the Alexie situation itself, can we first agree that we know nothing about Alexie’s marriage and its boundaries? There is concern over the harm done to his wife, and harm may indeed have been done, but there are plenty of couples out there that are monogam-ish, as anyone who follows the work of Dan Savage understands. Plus, are we really speaking for his wife, who has a mouth of her own and the ability to use it? Where are we, 16th century Spain? Furthermore, we tell kids all the time not to judge others on the basis of their own morality, yet the judgment on Alexie on the basis of morality has been worthy of Cotton Mather.

    Meanwhile, the Alexie facts themselves underwhelm. The chief fact-gatherer evidently had a long-standing non-marital affair with the writer, but failed to disclose it as she was gathering the facts. We learned it from Alexie. There was a claim that Alexie had threatened people’s careers, and engaged in assaultive behavior, but he did neither. Nor did he abuse his power with work subordinates or students. Instead, there is a vague sense that he misused power relationships because he was famed and those with whom he had sex were not. Life is about power imbalance — young and old, rich and poor, educated and not. The only way to have sex in a relationship that does not include a power imbalance is to do it by yourself. Alexie might well have used his fame to get something he wanted, under false pretenses. Others use beauty, wealth, political power. The truth is, this is extremely common behavior, across genders and sexual identities. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality. NPR chided Alexie for flirtation that turned sexual. What was flirting supposed to turn to, architecture? Bread-baking? It’s flirting! Alexie was called to task for ending non-marital consensual sexual relationships suddenly. How are they supposed to end? With agonizing slowness? He made unwanted sexual advances. If there are sexual advances, some of them will be unwanted. Merely asking for consent is a sexual advance.

    Alexie is no choir boy, but he’s no Weinstein or Lauer. His book is a masterpiece, whether he was a choir boy or not.

    • “He’s no Weinstein or Lauer.” The fact that there seems to be a tier of harassment, if you will, where Alexie supposedly falls on the level that you deem we all should accept, take as fact, and move forward from, is the very tip of the iceberg in how problematic this entire argument you have woven is.

      “…This is extremely common behavior, across genders and sexual identities.” Going to need some citations and examples of powerful women in, let’s just settle with publishing to begin with, who are carrying on in this manner and being so readily defended.

  21. Andrea Jones says:

    Of course Alexie is a flawed individual but as other Native writers such as Terese Mailhot have mentioned he has also done a lot of good. Alexie is a great writer as evidenced by the depth and breadth of his writing and although he has worked with the Native community he doesn’t own anyone anything–not even his community. It’s disturbing to read the pile-on of people maliciously questioning his worth as a writer. He is a philanderer not a rapist and the author saying she was in fear for her career is now a university professor at a very young age with many awards. I feel most sorry for his wife and sons and I do question Litsa Dremousis, the white writer leading the charge, because by having an affair with Alexie fully knowing he was married and she was also in a relationship—well she lost any credibility to a superior morality. She should have let one of the Native American writers handle the situation. I fully expect her to write a book on her relationship with Alexie.

  22. I’m so very disappointed to read this. I do not condone any of Alexie’s behaviors and I stand with all victims of any kind of abuse. That doesn’t negate the quality of this beautiful book. which deserved to be recognized.

  23. If you want a microcosm of what whiteness piling onto Native people looks like, look no further than the comments section herein.

    FFS. AILA made an informed decision. Let them do their thing. I trust Native people to understand justice and healing a hell of a lot more than I trust my fellow white people, and this is why.

    • One can tell someone’s race by the thrust of a comment or the name of a commenter? Ironically, Alexie made that same type of error in the Yi-Fen Chou affair.

  24. Ishta Mercurio says:

    I believe the women who have come forward. It is immeasurably difficult and stressful to speak out about one’s harasser, to relive the trauma of the harassment by rehashing it and revisiting it in one’s mind every time a reporter calls or an article appears or an acquaintance asks how you are doing… What these women did by coming forward was courageous and I stand by them 100%.

    And therefore, I stand by the AILA’s decision to rescind this award. If the AILA feels that Alexie does not represent their values as an organization, they have the right to make this decision, and I stand by them and applaud them for doing so.

    To those of you decrying the absence of “Due Process”: this is not a court of law. Alexie is under no threat of imprisonment, or fines, or public service. The women who were harassed by him have a right to speak about their experiences with him, and every single one of us has a right to choose how we respond to his books when we hear what these women have to say. “Due Process” has nothing to do with the decisions of private individuals or organizations.

  25. Mike Jung says:

    AILA is not a judicial body, and rescinding an award is not a criminal sentencing. Due process according to the law does not apply in this situation – AILA has every right, and in my opinion, every responsibility to consider how their awards reflect their organizational values and the communities they serve. But even if we were discussing events in a court of law, we know Alexie would still be at an advantage, because our criminal justice system has proven over and over that it will prioritize the future prospects of men over the past, present, and future well-being of women.

  26. Native Writer says:

    Interesting words, all around. I am a Native American male who writes for fun. Growing up, I read mostly Tony Hillerman, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Leslie Marmon Silko. Silko’s Storyteller inspired me to start writing. In college, I discovered Susan Power’s Grassdancer. I was fortunate enough to meet Susan Power at a powwow.

    Quite interestingly, I also met Sherman Alexie in 1996 or 1997. He was doing a book reading at another college two hours away, and a bunch of us Natives piled into a van to see him. He seemed like a gentle man, very eloquent and soft spoken. I don’t recall if I asked him any questions, and overall, it was a positive experience. What stands out in my memory is how proud he was to be married to a Native American lady. He told us that all other Native American writers are married to non-Natives, and he made it a point to marry a Native American. His words disappointed one of my Native friends because at the time, my friend was married to a white lady.

    After recently hearing about Sherman Alexie on NPR, I started researching the sexual harassment allegations and found my way to this website. I don’t know the guy, and I’ve never read his books. What bothers me most is how the young man I met 20 years ago could have it in his heart to hurt his home, his wife and children. It makes me wonder about what he said about his wife. Growing up, my female elders played a huge part in shaping my outlook. I farmed and herded sheep with my Grandma, and she taught me the importance of women. She taught me that I am my mother, my grandmother, and all my female ancestors all the way back because we are all one blood, one clan. She also taught me that in the darkest time in our history, our originator, the Changing Woman, ushered in a change upon the earth and created goodness/happiness. We are that goodness/happiness. These teachings culminated in respect: respect for self; respect for relatives; respect for all. As to how a man who once proudly spoke about his marriage can crumple up his home and throw it away is truly puzzling to me. He sounds like he lost his way. My condolences to Sherman, to the women he mistreated, to those who were angered by his actions, and to his family.

    PS: I’m not published, so I’m not trying to sell or advertise anything. Most of what I write is for self-edification.

    • Native Writer, These are beautiful words. I think you capture what some are feeling, about the heartbreak of this situation. Hearing the words of the women who have come forward, it’s clear they are telling the truth about their painful experiences. I have been wracking my brain and heart, on why I’m also experiencing compassion for Alexie, when he has done and said some terrible things. He has written and talked about women in his life with respect and warmth and I believe the dissonance in behavior is due to mental illness, for which he needs help. AILA is in their right to rescind an award, to censure him for his behavior, but I don’t think he’s a terrible person, as some may say.
      Thanks for adding positivity to this conversation and I hope you write more.

    • Thank you very much for this. I hope you and your friends are able to get your books out into the world, if you are so inclined.

      • Native Writer says:

        Melinda and Susan G. Thanks for the encouraging words. The young Sherman Alexie and the current Sherman Alexie are the bookends to my absence from writing. I wrote a lot in high school and college, mainly as a way of staying connected to my heritage. I went to high school and college far from home, where nobody spoke my language nor practiced my religion. Needless to say, I talked to the squirrels, trees and pigeons just to hear my language spoken. The coyote stories my elders taught me helped a lot because they talk about how Coyote survives as a lone traveler among different people with different traditions. Getting back to Alexie, he was coming onto the writing scene when I left it. I found, at the time, that my characters were flat and my stories were one dimensional. I needed to experience life, to live the things I wanted to write about, so I took a break. I got busy living life, and I found myself 20 years later, established in my career, without want or need, but feeling a yearning deep inside. I needed to write, so I started again. I find the writing process (the journey) more enjoyable than the product (destination). Old stories are like vintage wine; they get better with age, so I write and rewrite. Then all this happened with Sherman Alexie. That’s when I was like, oh yeah, I remember him. Based on other people’s judgment, it sounds like he’s on his way out. I compare what’s happening with Alexie to what happened with Paul Reubens. Out of curiosity, I watched Smoke Signals; interesting side note, Smoke Signals was distributed by Miramax, the company founded by Harvey Weinstein. I also went to my local library and looked at the table of contents of Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. I chose not to read the book, so I put it back on the shelf. From Smoke Signals, Alexie has an interesting use of simile, and he’s very declarative, angry even. I can see how a reader ignorant to Native Americans can take his word and feel safe about being educated.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Due process is *not* just associated with criminal court cases. It has to do with fundamental fairness in all forums. Those forums may be judicial like the federal and state criminal and civil courts, administrative proceedings by the government like for immigration, proceedings by administrative institutions like schools and unions, and even the disciplinary proceedings of non-for-profit organizations.

    Here is how that kind of due process would apply here: Were there provisions existing at AILA in 2008, at the time that Alexie accepted his award, that the award could be stripped from him for alleged misdeeds of moral turpitude? Did Alexie accept then with advance notice he would need to be morally upstanding for the rest of his life in the sole definition of the shifting leadership of the organization?

    If Alexie had no such prior notice, stripping his 2008 award is a violation of the fundamental fairness that due process protects. A person doesn’t need to be of any particular race to assert that fact. She, he, or they just has to have fairness as a core value.

    • Mike Jung says:

      Whose standard of fundamental fairness are we using? Is there a nomination process for who gets to set the standard? Can I nominate myself? MY STANDARD OF FUNDAMENTAL FAIRNESS IS TOTALLY FUNDAMENTALLY FAIR

  28. Do people here arguing for “due process” also believe that Harvey Weinstein should be reinstated at his company until he’s convicted in a court of law? Or does such “due process” only apply when the majority of women speaking out about violations of their bodies and autonomy are Native. Are people out there arguing that Harvard shouldn’t have rescinded Weinstein’s 2014 Du Bois Medal without “due process”? Or do such arguments only apply to a Native organization making autonomous decisions about its own award. Are they reading Native women’s own autonomous words about their experiences of assault? Or are people content to speak over and about those women, and violently mischaracterize their experiences as “abrupt endings to consensual affairs.” Are they speaking about the loss of work from Native writers Alexie harassed? Or are they too busy lamenting any possible loss of the single story his work represented. When people say “due process” do they mean the workings of the US criminal system, or those of sovereign Native nations? These people’s arguments are not about “due process” or “separating art and artist” and never have been. They are dismissals of the value, integrity, and autonomy of Native women’s bodies, work, and lives. At least be honest about that.

    People Alexie hurt are reading these words. Those who spoke out are seeing them. Those who have not felt able to speak out are seeing them. To them, I extend all of my warmth and support. To commenters here who are engaging in victim blaming: you are complicit in ongoing hurt and abuse.

  29. Library Associate says:

    I believe the women. I recognize their courage in a terrible situation.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the possible precedent being set by rescinding the award. Awards are given to recognize someone’s excellence or contribution. It’s the AILA’s choice to decide who deserves recognition.

    With all the talk about due process, I’m surprised no one has mentioned the other legal side of this. I am not a lawyer, and I may have this wrong. But here’s how I understand it. The laws in place to protect people in the public sphere are libel and slander laws. Alexie has certainly lost future employment due to the testimonies of these women and the articles. But the key to libel and slander is that the accusations must be false. Why would Alexie not use these laws to defend himself if he is innocent?

    • Indeed, it is AILA’s choice to decide who deserves recognition, and it is also their choice to decide that someone they previously thought deserved recognition has behaved in an egregious manner that may have cost them other, perhaps even more beautiful and valuable, voices that they could have lifted up and recognized.

  30. Henry Carman says:

    how many more women have to come forward before people here believe them? native women in particular. how many?

    has anyone read this yet?

    https://psmag.com/social-justice/amid-metoo-journalists-shouldnt-commodify-womens-pain

    • It’s not a question of not believing them. It’s a question of looking at the facts and seeing the only thing Alexie is guilty of is adultery. Sure I believe he made passes at some women, some of them being Natives. I don’t consider that to be abuse of anyone other than his wife.

  31. Anonymous Observer says:

    I’ve reread and thought about all 90+ comments. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Believe Women did not die on Emma Sulkowicz’s mattress, and that “believe women” is a better standard for truth-finding than “listen carefully and verify completely.” Let’s assume that the worst allegations and reports about Alexie are true. Hell, let’s assume that the truth is far worse than these allegations. This still does not provide justification for the rescinding of an award granted to a book he wrote, not to him as a human being.

  32. Lindsay Eagar says:

    If only you were as protective of the women who were abused, manipulated, gaslighted, and used by Sherman Alexie as you are protective of this book!

    It’s everyone’s personal choice to continue to consume media that was created by a$$holes. Someone mentioned Roald Dahl’s famous antisemitism—yes, if you care about Jewish children and families, you probably will at least read his books while remembering that Matilda and James and the Grand High Witch came from the same mind that hated Jewish people and thought women were subpar. In fact, his antisemitism probably informed his writing and that is such an uncomfortable truth, but you cannot separate the art from the artist. If you are so capable of doing so, congrats! Remember that not everyone is as privileged as you in that department. Not everyone is able to put aside a serial sexual harasser and enjoy their work.

    And as a consumer, you have to be ready to answer for what you’re consuming. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy things by problematic people (because then there would be no books or movies or music or paintings); it DOES mean you are a callous, selfish person if you want victims of those problematic creators and others who are sensitive to such things celebrate the media on the same level as you.

    And if your idea of defending your book choices is trying to erase the very clear, documented behavior of Alexie over the last decade, then you’re also being kind of an a$$hole, changing the narrative just so you can feel good about reading a book.

    AILA has every right to rescind and grant awards and it is not censorship or punishment. And the fact that so many people will defend this book over the myriad of Native women who were targeted by Alexie…. it does make me want to point out that Asher and Dashner’s victims were white women. So what’s the difference?

    Believe women. Believe Alexie himself—he apologized because he did this and worse. The whisper network about Alexie has been alive and strong for years in the publishing industry—can you reconcile the fact that your favorite books come from icky, cruel minds sometimes? And stop prioritizing this book over human Native women!

    • R.A. Lyon says:

      Ms Eagar: You write, “yes, if you care about Jewish children and families, you probably will at least read his books while remembering that Matilda and James and the Grand High Witch came from the same mind that hated Jewish people and thought women were subpar. In fact, his antisemitism probably informed his writing and that is such an uncomfortable truth, but you cannot separate the art from the artist. If you are so capable of doing so, congrats! Remember that not everyone is as privileged as you in that department.”

      Are you Jewish? If not, please don’t use Jewish children and families in your statement. I am Jewish and members of my family are people; not objects to be used by the likes of you.

      You write, ” In fact, his [Dahl] antisemitism probably informed his writing…” I’m not defending or dismissing him, but have you done an in-depth study of his writing or are you just throwing this out there?

      By the way, I can no longer read any writing by Lotsa Dremousis knowing she had an affair with a married man. You cannot separate the art from the artist!

      • Lindsay Eagar says:

        Oh, gosh, I certainly do not want to wrongfully utilize antisemitism here as an extending metaphor. I am not Jewish and would never want anyone Jewish to feel used for an argument. I apologize and will make sure I am more thoughtful in the future.

        And of course I am not “throwing this out there;” I have read extensively about the antisemitism inherent in Dahl’s books and his essays, as well as his utter disdain for older women–he was a favorite author of mine growing up and learning that he, along with many other golden standard children’s authors, are garbage sexists and racists was devastating.

      • Mike Jung says:

        Good news, R.A. Lyon – you absolutely have the right to not read any writing by Litsa Dremousis, and if you gave her an award back in 2008, you can rescind it! GO FORTH AND BASK IN YOUR FREEDOM

  33. Julie Artz says:

    I believe the women who have come forward and applaud the AILA for taking action. Hopefully more award committees will follow suit and send a strong message that this type of abuse and harassment will not be tolerated in the industry.

  34. Jennifer Austin says:

    I too read TATDoaPTI years ago and was transported. It was an amazing and unflinching look at PART of reservation life. It also has it’s problems, as many Native reviewers have pointed out and I as a white person am not qualified to comment on. It is an important book for youth and adults alike, despite some problems, and I am glad that I read it and that it has been there for kids whom may have needed it.
    But.
    But. But. But.
    NONE OF THIS EXCUSES THE FACT THAT ALEXIE HAS BEEN ACCUSED BY MULTIPLE WOMEN OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT!

    Court of law you say? Proof you ask for? Witch hunt you claim?

    Where all the women crying #METOO? Where are the loud proclamations of #TIMESUP? Where are all the BELIEVE WOMEN supporters? I’ll tell you where they are. They were all used up on white women, because apparently we don’t want to believe Native Women.

    Step away from your hero-worship for a second. It is hard for a woman–ANY woman–to come forward with accusations of sexual harassment. They won’t be believed. They will be ridiculed. They will be dragged through the mud and verbally or physically abused. Now just imagine that is a woman of color, especially a Native woman. Native woman are raped, murdered, and abused across this nation and Canada and very few people speak out in their defense. They know this. They live this every day. And now you want to question if they are telling the truth?! They have so many truthes they could tell, but this is the one they have strength for and now you want to criticize it?

    And yes, this means I lose a beloved book. I lose novels on my kindle I haven’t read yet. And I won’t. I lose a man I once thought well of because I could admire him from afar and not see what he cost other women in a professional setting. Not all women. Of course he didn’t harass ALL women, but that is no proof that he didn’t harass SOME women. But is what I lose by believing worse than what these women have lost by being harassed?

    I believe women. I believe NATIVE women, because they have so much more to fear by coming forward. I stand with all of you.

  35. Katie L. Carroll says:

    I want to voice my support of the women who have spoken out against Sherman Alexie and my support of the AILA in rescinding his award. We should believe these women as we have done for other women speaking out in the #metoo movement.

  36. You Team Alexie folks need to ask yourselves why you feel you are owed anything from the AILA. You can celebrate the author with your own award if you want to (just see who cares). It’s the AILA’s award and they can do what they want with it, if you’re paying them the $20 membership dues and don’t like their decision to NOT celebrate a serial sexual harasser and adulterer you can always comment with your wallet and opt not to renew. It’s what many of us did when SCBWI’s enabling of serial harassers/abusers came to light.

  37. I believe the women. I also believe the “due process” people in this comment section need to either learn what that actually means or sit in the back of the class while the kids who did their homework talk.

  38. I believe and support the women who have come forward, and I’m so grateful for their bravery. Speaking out against a male author with so much power must’ve been incredibly difficult. I’m glad ALA rescinded the award, and I hope other actions follow. When it comes to issues like these, the silence from publishers is deafening and does not go unnoticed.

  39. Laura Jeminez made my point for me. To be crass, opinions are like asshole and everybody has one. We don’t need to hear everyone’s. We need to listen to the people who have been impacted and who are in a position to make these decisions. I support the AILA’s right to make this decision themselves (and the decision itself). I support the people speaking out against Alexie.

  40. Kudos to Native Organizations doing what they can in support of the women and community harmed by Alexie and publishing. Non native people Should no nothing more than listen to the women, believe the women, and accept that native organizations are dealing with this in a just way. As an educator and someone who has recommended his work for curriculum and purchase and as a library board member I no longer can support him.
    I will continue to advocate for all the other ignored native writers and small presses.

  41. I believe the women. I believe that removing the throne from under one privileged man will do nothing but help more Native voices find their position – because this man is not the be all and end all of Native voices, or talented voices in literature. When we insist that we cannot lose this kind of man (whether it is Alexie, or Handler, or Dashner), we erase the worthy who he might have already been silencing, or attempting to silence, through his actions and abuse and positioning.

    For the fellow teachers who have commented: your position as an educator involves continuing to educate yourself. There are voices out there besides Alexie. Respect the victims and seek out the voices that will touch your hearts in ways that you might not have imagined or expected in this moment in which you realize that you have only upheld and stood by one voice. Listen to Debbie Reese, who has done hours of tireless work for her community, and read her blog and seek out other titles you may introduce your students to. Believe me, this is not as huge a loss as you are believing it to be – nor will it be an entire loss for any of these men, who will still see their royalties, their staunch supporters (as sadly and disgustingly demonstrated throughout this thread) and their hidden accolades that others feel reluctant to remove.

    (Also, truly, consider what it will represent to our students if you try to erase all of what Alexie has done and been accused by as ‘it is only adultery.’ Think of what this represents to their own relationships, their expectations of relationships, and if they are young women, what they believe they should deserve from their partners.

    One more thing: an award is a privilege, not a RIGHT. An award is a cherry on top of the sundae, not an expectation. There is no legal standpoint or governmental due to be argued when an organization has rightfully decided that they do not stand by a man that has acted beneath their moral values, and move on to support others who are far more deserving.

    • YES. This: “One more thing: an award is a privilege, not a RIGHT. An award is a cherry on top of the sundae, not an expectation. There is no legal standpoint or governmental due to be argued when an organization has rightfully decided that they do not stand by a man that has acted beneath their moral values, and move on to support others who are far more deserving.”

  42. I support the women who have spoken up about Sherman Alexie.
    I support the women who have not been able to speak up.
    People who have not been in a situation like this have no idea the level of fear and intimidation that is involved. The gas-lighting, the threats, the manipulation – it wears victims down until they begin to doubt themselves. The bravery it took for the women who were able to speak to come forward is astounding.
    Why are we offering a book more protection than we offer these women?
    Thank you AILA for taking a stand with this strong statement.

  43. Anne Ursu says:

    Kaye and many others have said it amazingly well. I’d be curious how many people suddenly enraged over a decision by the AILA even knew the organization existed last week. The women are so courageous, both the ones who speak and the ones who do not feel they can. It’s so heartbreaking to see the way they are being treated here and the way harassing and abusive behavior is excused. We are a deeply damaged society and my love and respect goes out to those who have risked so much to make it a little less so and to keep other women safe. We are standing behind you.

    • “I’d be curious how many people suddenly enraged over a decision by the AILA even knew the organization existed last week.”

      Feel free to just drop that mic, Anne. <3

  44. I hope the AILA’s decision brings some measure of acknowledgement to the women who have spoken out. Their word is evidence of what happened and I believe them.

  45. Stephanie says:

    I believe the women. Sherman Alexie abused his position of power, manipulated these women, and silenced their voices and their art until now.

    I thank all of them for their bravery in coming forward and I thank the publications, Debbie Reese, and Litsa Dremousis who documented what the women had to say. I am disgusted by SLJ for this shallow, un-nuanced squib of a piece.

  46. Caitlin O'Connell says:

    I support the AILA in their decision to rescind Alexie’s award in light of his behavior, and I support the women who have been hurt by this man’s horrible actions. The ones who have come forward are incredibly courageous, and none of these people deserve to be gaslit and belittled like this.

  47. KE Carson says:

    Good on the AILA for rescinding the award. It’s about time we stand behind native women in our community. There’s nothing “unjust” about any of this. Victims have spoken up, Alexie has confirmed it (without details), and so it’s not a question of if these allegations are true or not, it’s a question of how do we respond. And I think this is a good start. We need real world consequences for behaviour that has skittered by in the shadows for years.

  48. Anne Ursu says:

    I would also ask those of you who are choosing to believe the best of one man and the worst of many women, despite all evidence, to step back and ask yourselves why.

    • R.A. Lyon says:

      Ms Ursu – Your Twitter call to post here is working. I am not choosing to believe the best of one man and the worst of many women!

  49. Point one: the AILA is a private organization. They get to honor whoever the heck they want, according to their own knowledge, inclination and say-so. Just because any one of us had a positive experience with a certain book (and I know that I have read many of Alexie’s stories over the years that have moved me profoundly, and that experience will not change), that experience has no bearing whatsoever on what the AILA decides to do.

    Point two: tokenism, in any situation, is a problem. That there are people on this comment thread who have only ever, in their entire reading lives, read only one (or, I’m hazarding to guess, maybe three) Native American author is a HUGE problem. It alters one’s perspective on where the harm lies.

    Point three: the fact that Mr. Alexie has – and this is ignoring the sexual misconduct for a moment – actively silenced other Native authors, or refused to raise up or amplify other Native voices in literature, is not up for debate. We all heard the same interviews. We all heard him demure on the subject of Native writers. How many times have I heard him respond to the question of what other Native authors does he recommend, with his famous quip, “Does a Buick recommend that you should try driving a Ford?” or some variant on that theme? I have heard him say it in different interviews over the years six or seven times. Or there’s his other line, “I keep looking in my rear-view mirror, and I don’t see anyone on my tail.” WHICH IS A WEIRD WAY TO TALK ABOUT THE COMMUNITY OF LETTERS. Also? Sherman? New writers don’t come up from behind: they are ahead of us. We slow down and we lift them up, that is what we are supposed to do. Ugh.

    Point three: It is not lost on me that there is a culture of aversion in this community when it comes to harm that is directed towards women of color. We don’t see it; we don’t hear it; we don’t respond to it; we don’t speak up against it. That changes today. I insist that this changes today. Mr. Alexie has admitted to harming women. Women of color have come forward and offered their stories of experienced that damaged them. That silenced them. That have hurt their careers. This cannot happen again. I won’t let it – and you shouldn’t either. Your experience with his books that, yes may have moved you, and yes may have transported you, and yes may have helped you to see the world differently? I’m sorry. That doesn’t matter. One man’s book is not as important as the lives of women.

    We get to choose who we honor. We get to choose why we honor them. We get to choose to have high standards for conduct. We get to remove a distinction from someone’s work when it becomes clear to us that we dishonor ourselves when we honor dishonorable men. If someone’s book comes to us at the cost of another person’s voice, if it stands on the neck of someone else’s genius, is it worth it? Is that a cost we are willing to bear?

    I’m not.

    I believe the women.

    And I support the AILA’s decision – and I recognize that it actually does not matter if I support it or not, as it is not my decision to make. It’s theirs. I support it anyway, and I honor the thought and listening and courage that went into it. Thank you, to everyone involved.

  50. Carole Lindstrom says:

    As an Ojibwe/Metis woman and children’s author, I stand with the American Indian Library Association for their courageous action. I also stand with these courageous women who spoke out . AILA stands for the children first, and I appreciate the important work that they do. Thank you, AILA.

  51. Joy McCullough says:

    To the women who so courageously spoke their truth about Alexie, I believe you, I support you, I stand with you. To those abused by Alexie who have not felt safe speaking up (and one glance at these comments should explain why they wouldn’t), I believe you and support you and stand with you too. And to other survivors of other abusers who are looking at these comments and feeling the stabbing reaffirmation that your story and voice are not valued, I am so sorry. I am with you too.

    And thank you to AILA for the stance you have taken.

  52. Laurel R Snyder says:

    In all likelihood, the allegations that have been made public represent a number of other offenses that have not yet come to light.

    And yet, that shouldn’t even matter. These women are victims, who have come forward, despite the additional pain and negative publicity it may bring them. This is a brave act, a generous act. We should be thanking them, not shaming them, or questioning them.

  53. Kate Messner says:

    I applaud the American Indian Literature Association for this brave decision that sends such a strong message. My support is with you, and with the brave Native women who came forward to speak, and I look forward to seeing more of their work lifted up in all of our literary communities.

  54. Melanie Conklin says:

    I am beyond disappointed at the comments here that advocate ignoring Alexie’s victims. The AILA statement does a tremendous job of explaining why their decision is not only brave and forward-looking, but necessary. Their choice to rescind Alexie’s award is not censorship. It is not unjust or unfair. It is what’s right.

  55. Sarah K. says:

    Talent doesn’t excuse abuse. Talent doesn’t excuse abuse. TALENT DOESN’T EXCUSE ABUSE.

    In rescinding this award, the AILA shows an integrity many other organisations could stand to model.

  56. Gaia cornwall says:

    Thank you to the brave women who came forward. We are with you. I’m sorry your voices were silenced for so long. Thank you to the AILA for doing the right thing.

  57. Megan Blakemore says:

    I found the AILA statement to be quite powerful. They were clear in their reasoning, explaining how their choice was mision-driven. It was a bold, impressive stance to take, and one that shows support for the women of the community they represent and serve. Moreover, I am grateful for the work of AILA and of Debbie Reese for raising awareness of other Native voices.

  58. Ronny Khuri says:

    I believe the women, and I won’t forget this. I believe in the AILA’s obvious right to rescind their own award. I am so appalled by how far people are going out of their way to dismiss these women. And for the people giving the old “boys will be boys” argument: shame on you. There’s another way.

  59. Heid E. Erdrich says:

    I stand with the women who have come forward. They did so knowing they would suffer further abuse in social media such as we see here.

    Those who spoke out know there are many women who cannot speak out. Seeing these comments, why would they?

    To those women I say I BELIEVE YOU. I believe because, over the years, several women have told me their stories of Alexie’s harrassing behavior. Both women and men Native writers have told me of his intimidation power plays. They did so long before #metoo but everyone was afraid for their careers. Writers get this – we are close. Native writers even closer.

    These were not my stories. I could only support the tellers and encourage them to do what they needed to recover. I heard these stories again and more on top when news broke. It has been very painful for a small literary community.

    Many in the Native literary community know that public comment it the tip of the iceberg that is the behavior of a complex, famous, and often ill-behaved man.

    It is the least that professional Native literary associations can do to rescind awards. Such gestures allow a path toward uplifting writers harmed by Alexie’s actions.

  60. Tasslyn Magnusson says:

    Thank you to the women who spoke out – that is brave. Thank you to the AILA for rescinding the honor – that was the right thing to do and it was courageous. You stood for the women and you stood for the readers and you stood for the kids. I will stand with you.

  61. Stephanie Willing says:

    I stand with the women and AILA. I applaud them for their bravery, and I mourn their stories and the stories we haven’t heard.

    It’s painful every time we lose a personal hero or favorite, but it’s a fraction of the pain women experience when they are harassed, threatened, and silenced by those “heroes.” I’m furious for them, and I’m furious for me.

  62. Laura Jimenez, Kaye M, and many others have expressed this idea and similar ones far better than I will here, but let me add the following:
    1) It’s not an isolated incident or a single “spurned lover.” This is pattern of abusive behavior in which Alexie used his power to manipulate and harm women. When there’s a pattern, you cannot just write it off. It’s not a series of isolated incidents. IT. IS. A. PATTERN.
    2) An award-granting organization is not a court of law. It’s an award-granting organization. I’m surprised that so many commenters cannot tell the difference between the two, though I suppose this confusion does at lest help explain the weakness of their arguments.
    3) Rescinding an award is not censorship. It’s rescinding an award. The book is still available. If it’s an important work for you, please re-read it, buy copies for your friends, etc.
    4) It is true that creators of beautiful works of art can also be horrible people. I’m sure each of us could draw up a short list of brilliant artists who also did horrible things. How you decide to respond to that is always a moral question. The AILA’s response has been to rescind the award.

    As readers, librarians, teachers, or whatever our roles may be, we also have a moral decision to make. As a teacher, I might decide that the literary work is too important to remove from my syllabus; if that were my choice, I could then bring in (as context) these accusations, the news coverage, and Alexie’s response. The class could debate whether or not Alexie’s misconduct (and inability to understand that what he did was wrong, as Alexie’s “apology” letter shows) should influence our interpretation of his work, or the value of biographical criticism, etc.

    Or I might decide to teach a novel by a different author on the grounds that I don’t wish to pay the salary of a man who has used his power to demean others. Perhaps I decide to teach Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves instead of Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary. Or I might assign another work by a native writer. There are many books to choose from.

    And there are many ways to respond to these revelations of Alexie’s misconduct. How you decide to respond is a moral decision. The moral decisions made in this comment thread by defenders of Alexie reveal a great deal about the people who posted them — more than I think some of them realize.

  63. I believe the women.
    And I support and respect the right of AILA to do whatever its members deem appropriate in the granting and removing of awards.

  64. To all the women who have spoken up, thank you. I can’t imagine how scary and frustrating it must be to have to recount these experiences, hoping someone will actually hear you. To AILA, thank you for listening. This needed to happen.

  65. I truly hope I’m not derailing the conversation at hand. I’m one of the women that anonymously came forward for the NPR article. I didn’t reveal my identity, and I’d like to tell you why.
    1. Many people do not believe women. I have grown up with people waving away things that I have found uncomfortable and disturbing. When I was a kid (9), I had an issue with a boy who was ‘in love’ with me, who kept getting close to me even though I kept asking him to stop, and when that didn’t work I would physically remove myself from the space, and THAT didn’t work because I was a child and he kept following me around. I can hear the chorus of you all out there saying, ‘That’s so innocent! You are being too sensitive. He was a little boy, what was he going to do to you?’ In that moment, I realized that my discomfort meant less to the people around me than the comfort of this boy. It made me aware of my body in a way that I hadn’t thought of before. Nearly twenty years later, everything is still the same. My discomfort is nothing compared to any inconvenience that a man may feel. I know this more than I did when I was nine, and at moments when I feel hope? I make the mistake of reading comment sections like this and realize that there are still so many people out there who don’t believe women.
    2. People are rallying for details so they can judge for themselves. I hear you. You want to read my correspondence with Sherman Alexie, perhaps to read Sherman’s words, but to attack my own. Whatever I put out there will be torn apart. The three INCREDIBLY brave women who publicly came forward are having their accounts degraded and shamed. Why on EARTH are you doing this? Do you think it’s actually easy to speak up about sexual harassment? Do you want to see what I look like? To think ‘Okay, I see why he hit on her.’ or ‘Seriously? Her? She’d be lucky if anyone looked at her.’ What does my appearance have to do with this? Does this mean it is okay if he went after someone who you find unattractive?
    3. I value my career. I’ve seen what happens to women that come out publicly. I’ve seen their careers get torn apart. I am not as brave as the women who came out publicly. I am weak in this regard, and I admit this. But guess who else feels weak – all of the other women that Sherman Alexie has done this to, who haven’t come out because they are also worried about what talking about their Sherman Alexie experience will do to their careers, to their lives.

    I want to shout about this. I want to be loud and furious and PUBLIC but I’m not because I recognize that you still have power. That even though I am so fortunate to be surrounded by supportive friends, and the extremely warm, welcoming, and supportive kidlit community, you are still out there, doubting me. Making me second guess my discomfort and demanding I look at my situation again. Am I sure that a married man was swimming around me like a shark? Am I sure that I didn’t misunderstand? Am I sure he wanted me? Am I sure? I am sure, and I’m making a demand back. Why do you insist upon doubting me? What do I, this nameless, faceless woman, have to gain?

  66. Ryan Swanson says:

    This is the right decision ALIA. Thank you for listening to women when they speak out!

  67. Daniel Mauleon says:

    Not sure what I can add that hasn’t already been shared more eloquently by many of the women in this thread. But since some of you have a hard time taking women and their word while gladly trusting statements from men let me add to the chorus:

    1. I believe the women who have come forward.
    2. The AILA is beholden only to their members, and even then should be respected as an institution to choose who to associate.
    3. If you think the court of law justly cares for women’s issues, please do some research.

  68. Anonymous says:

    There’s a lot of very shaky binary thinking underway here this Sunday, and false binaries make for weak arguments.

    A person can believe the factual allegations of the women as reported by NPR and elsewhere and still think that AICL made an error in rescinding its award to the book. A person can also support the work of the AICL and believe that it erred in this instance.

    • Sure, Jan.

    • The fact that you refer to AICL, Debbie’s blog, rather than the organization we all have been speaking about and supporting – AILA – throws doubt on your purported claim of support.

    • @ Anonymous. Please get the acronym right. It’s AILA. The American Indian Library Association. You’ll be hearing more from us, because we are still here.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry, AILA. Mea maxima got it twisted. American Indian Library Association (and not American Indian Literature Association, either, as the writer of this article, Ms. Yorio, erroneously called your group in her lede).

        AILA. AILA.

        Looking forward to hearing much more from you. The false binaries are still real, though.

  69. Beverly Slapin says:

    I stand with AILA for their brave and necessary decision. I stand with the courageous Native women who have spoken about the abuse they have survived. And I stand with the Native women who have, for now, been silenced.

    Because all over the US and Canada, Native women are disproportionately murdered and disappeared. Because all over the US and Canada, upper-class white women who dare to speak out about rape and sexual harassment are referred to (in different ways) as “brave,” while Native women who dare to speak out about rape and sexual harassment are referred to (in different ways) as “sluts.”

    Many Native women writers have come forth and accused Sherman Alexie of, among other things, sexual harassment, bullying, and threatening their careers. After what must have been much painful and difficult thought and discussion, the American Indian Library Association rescinded their award for his middle-grade novel, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN.

    Until today, this comment section was nothing less than a whiteness gang-up on Native women, victim-blaming that revealed more about the commenters than it did about the accusers or the accused. They referred to the accused as a “regular horny guy” who sometimes “made women uncomfortable.” They excused his predatory behavior: “He made unwanted sexual advances. If there are sexual advances, some of them will be unwanted. Merely asking for consent is a sexual advance.” They accused the accusers of “envy,” “anger,” “animosity,” “self-aggrandizement,” “crass opportunism,” “vindictiveness,” “pettiness,” and “playing the victim card” or the “race card.” They called the accusations “gossip started by a bitter ex-lover.” The comments are full of “whataboutisms” (“What about my friend who was falsely accused and whose reputation could not recover?”), false equivalencies (“rescinding an award is the same as banning books”), and ad absurdum arguments (“Please agitate to pull back Rev. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize”).

    I thought I knew Sherman Alexie. Although we were never “friends,” he signed his books to me, “in friendship.” He showed me photos of his young children as they were growing up, and he invited me and a few other women, mostly Native, to go out with him for coffee after his readings. During these times, he often made obnoxious remarks that we all but ignored. He’d wave his hotel card around, for instance, and invite women up to his room, singly and as a group. I suspected that there might have been more to his behavior, but I pushed back the suspicion. Maybe we all did.

    I was asked to write the Discussion Guide for ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, which I did. But I stopped communicating with Sherman after his book, FLIGHT, was published. It was full of horrendous stereotypes about Native peoples, and about Muslims as well. I felt that Sherman felt that he could do anything he damn well pleased and no one would dare come up against him.

    In his writings and in his talks, Sherman insisted in portraying all Native people as alcoholics, thereby scoring white points for honesty. Sherman referred to himself “Indian du jour,” and to his white fans, Sherman was the only Native writer whose work spoke to them. And all this time, Sherman was betraying and abusing Native women writers.

    Once more, I believe and support the Native women who have come forward and spoken of the sexual harassment, threats and bullying that they endured at the hands of Sherman Alexie. I believe and support the women who could not come forward. I honor their courage as well. And I honor the American Indian Library Association for their decision that spoke to their core values as a Native-focused organization.

    I BELIEVE YOU. I SUPPORT YOU. I STAND WITH YOU.

    And I thank Laura Jimenez, Debbie Reese, Jacqueline Keeler, Deborah Miranda, Tiffany Midge, and all the other women who do the sometimes painful, always necessary, work.

    • Anonymous says:

      “this comment section was nothing less than a whiteness gang-up on Native women”

      You can tell someone’s race by the comments they leave?

  70. Ebony McKenna says:

    Awards can be given and awards can be taken away.

  71. Deva Fagan says:

    Thank you to those who have spoken up and shared their stories. And thank you to the AILA for listening.

  72. Women who have spoken up against Sherman Alexie, I believe and support you.

  73. Kate Rodbro says:

    The comments in this thread in support of the AILA and the women are well stated. As I was reading All of the comments I kept wondering about what filters and unconscious motivations may be driving those who are challenging and angry with AILA’s decision. What was very mysterious was the denial of the experience of these women. The difficulty empathizing and truly understanding what they went through. T’s words explain it all. And I stand behind her and all of the women who spoke up. Anonymous or not, taking action and speaking out about harassment by a powerful and beloved figure takes courage. For those women, I believe you and I applaud you.

  74. Heidi Heilig says:

    I’m horrified by those questioning the choice of the AILA. Not only because i find their choice admirable, but because it is their choice. They have every right to rescind an award they gave.

    Moreover, I’m disgusted but unsurprised at those who value the art of a serial predator over the safety, humanity, and art of the people he abused. My support and admiration to the women speaking up against him, as well as to the AILA. My condemnation to the derailers, the minimizers, the enablers and defenders of the abuser, and the abuser himself.

  75. I want to read the books
    that these women would have written
    if they’d had the editorial support that Alexie had
    if they’d had the adulation that Alexie had
    if they’d been encouraged as Alexie had been
    for two decades.
    I want to read those books.
    If you people would believe them
    and encourage them
    and lift them up
    I have not even the tiniest doubt in my mind
    that their books would be every bit as good as his
    if not better!
    And also you’d be supporting the right people
    and the right books
    AND THIS WOULD DO GOOD IN THE WORLD
    SO MUCH GOOD, PEOPLE
    … I mean, that’s what we want of children’s authors, right?
    And for the children as well.
    (When I say children I also include the grumpy sleep-deprived teens
    who are at this moment trying to save society from itself)

    *Buy* books from these women
    *Support* these women
    **Let these women write their stories**

    This shouldn’t be that hard, really.

  76. Believe women. How is this so hard for people? People lose jobs all the time over sexual harassment without having an actual criminal conviction in a court of law. Quit caping for a man who is abundantly not qualified for this award. He has hurt the indigenous community deeply and that should be sufficient to withdraw your support.

    Once again, believe women here. They have a ton to lose by coming forward.

  77. Sam Bloom says:

    I very much appreciate the work of the AILA Executive Board, and I support and admire their decision. To the mostly white people who used the same tired arguments in a total pile-on against member of AILA and the Native women who were abused by Sherman Alexie: stop talking. This is not a conversation that we should be part of; we can listen, and believe the women. Many thanks to folks upthread, like Debbie Reese, Laura Jimenez, and many others who have spoken so eloquently in the face of ridiculous comments about due process/insert straw man created to deflect blame off of Alexie. Finally, I believe the women who have spoken up against Sherman Alexie, as well as those who could not come forward.

  78. Angry Cassie says:

    I stand with AILA’s decision and commend them for taking this necessary and exemplary action. Let it be known: SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NEVER OKAY. It’s time the perpetrators start to face some of the life-altering consequences of their own actions. Imagine that?!

  79. Jennifer Mann says:

    I support the women who came forward to speak. I support the American Indian Literature Association in their decision.

  80. Kim Graff says:

    I fully support the women who Alexie has hurt and think descending the award was a good move. Simply because someone was not “convicted in the court of law” doesn’t mean what they did isn’t horrific. What he did? It’s horrific. He should no longer be published and, frankly. It’s rather disgusting that the publisher is willing to continue to make money off the suffering of women, especially women of color.

    He has made it clear he’s not really sorry for his actions and even if he was it would not change all the hurt he has done. Apologizing halfway is as good as never apologizing at all.

  81. “Good writing” does not negate sexual assault/abuse. I stand behind the AILA’s decision to rescind the award. I support the women who have spoken out; I cannot imagine how hard it is to do so.

  82. T., thanks for your comment. I think it was a wise to remain anonymous, mostly because I continue to be amazed at how poorly all of this has been handled beginning with Litsa Dremousis’s involvement and NPR’s coverage of the women’s stories.

    I met Sherman almost ten years ago, and the email correspondence I’ve had with him, including me breaking things off with him after a one-time consensual encounter at his hotel, would probably support his defense. He was married so it didn’t feel right to me (yes, I think there’s some personal accountability in that kind of situation), but there was no coercion or anger expressed in person or through any correspondence with him. After, I continued to attend his readings when he came to town, and he would still sometimes email me from the airport on his way out of Spokane, for example, to ask how I was doing. That said, I understand that one person’s relationship with someone doesn’t preclude someone’s involvement or perceived entitlement with other people.

    In case you think my only purpose here is to protect Sherman, you should know that I reported what I considered to be my personal relationship with him to SCBWI through the link posted after the anonymous allegations came out against him in the comments section of the SLJ Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks. (I used the email address that SCBWI probably has on record with my former last name, same initials as above.) Although I made it clear I didn’t consider myself a victim, I felt it was important to share in case something in my story with Sherman fit a larger pattern of more troubling behavior with other women.

    While I’m interested in the well-being of the women involved, from the outside, there are many problems with the way this whole situation has been handled.

    For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion so far:

    I think AILA has every right to make decisions for their organization based on the objectives they hope to meet through their recognition. It’s also possible they have additional information that influenced their decision to rescind Sherman’s 2008 Book of the Year Award.

    As for the rest of us–we lack enough clear information to draw many reasonable conclusions from this mess.

    Sadly, Litsa Dremousis, who was not forthcoming from the beginning about her own consensual sexual relationship with Sherman has only hurt the credibility of the women choosing to speak out against him.

    Whatever the motivation, Litsa chose to insert herself into this narrative and we have little indication what she alleged has been proven. She claimed to have verified dozens upon dozens of harassment stories as “100% credible,” while receiving emails from women she was (for some bizarre reason) funneling to NPR. Is this their typical reporting procedure?

    Based on their own NPR accounts, none of the three women that spoke on out were sexually assaulted by Alexie. But were they sexually harassed by him? Bullied or threatened?

    The accounts need to be looked at individually.

    Jeanine Walker seemed surprised that Sherman was interested in her beyond her poetry and basketball skills, yet she also admitted her only real interest in him was to advance her own publishing ambitions. He asked to kiss her, didn’t when she said no, and later apologized. Doesn’t seem to fit the definition of harassment.

    Erika Wurth traveled to one of Sherman’s readings upon his request, walked back to a hotel with him and agreed to go to his room after he kissed her in the lobby. In his room things ended when he picked up on her non-verbal objection to his advances. Yet, several years later she had another sexual encounter with him that ended badly? My inclination was to dismiss it because it seemed that she chose to put herself in that position with him again. A series of consensual choices hardly sounds like harassment, but maybe he was bullying and threatening in the angry email exchanges afterword…we didn’t really know.

    Later on her twitter account, however, Erika filled in some essential details about their second encounter. Sherman apparently lured her around her apartment building and pushed her up against a wall. How did NPR miss THAT critical piece of verifiable information? It involved a chipped tooth for heaven’s sake! And yes, that’s assault.

    Of the accounts given on NPR, Elissa Washuta’s seemed the most problematic. Sherman’s vulgar comment to her at the restaurant could absolutely be perceived as threatening. Hopefully he said it loud enough that someone else at the table witnessed his reprehensible behavior. Worse, Sherman and Elissa later worked together as colleagues at IAIA. On NPR she said he tried to lure her to his hotel room at a conference they both attended. Jacqueline Keeler later wrote an article in which Elissa described Sherman’s pathetic attempt at seduction–sending a picture of the bed in his hotel room with a box of condoms on the nightstand. Fortunately, that’s easily verifiable. Unfortunately, NPR didn’t seem to verify it.

    So if Litsa and a handful of other women had the intention of rallying grievances of every kind against Sherman–they succeeded. Among them, criticism of his writing, his speaking topics to adult audiences, his perceived arrogance, and his supposed obligation to promote other Native writers. However, these things have only detracted from the harassment/assault allegations.

    That said, it’s good that some blatant problems have been addressed, including Native American tokenism in publishing and the dependency of Sherman as a gatekeeper in the literary world. Also obvious–the need for dependable reporting options for all women writers, but especially Native American women who statistically run a higher risk (2.5 times other racial groups) of sexual harassment and assault.

    T., I understand many of the concerns you mentioned in your comment, but without more information, I honestly don’t know how I–or anyone else–would evaluate your experience with Sherman. I do know that in order to assess any harassment/assault situation, women deserve the best reporting methods and most complete, verified coverage possible from dependable sources.

    As ground-breaking and necessary as the Me Too movement is, I worry that some people are giving in to blind belief based on hearsay that is easily distorted, manipulated and magnified in our digital age.

    And I do know this: poorly handled news coverage with ill-fitting personal accounts of perceived harassment will only hurt the Me Too movement in the long run.

    We all need to do better.

  83. Don Reynolds says:

    Let’s agree at the outset, the American Indian Library Association has every right to do whatever it wants with its book selections and awards. However, they do not have the right to expect automatic respect for/agreement with their actions, especially when they disregard their own operating award selection criteria.

    The basic question remains unanswered: are AILA literary awards about the quality/content of the writing or the lifestyle of the author? Having served on a variety of children’s and young adult award selection book committees, I have some questions about applying not-specified criteria to award selections, especially when applied retroactively. Applying new criteria 10 years after a book has been selected to add that an author should be living an exemplary, virtuous life or being a writer “that writers are members of our communities who we can look to as role models for our youth,” is terribly unprincipled and unprofessional, not to mention ethically questionable.
    Do any of us think our work product should judged by how we’re treating our mother? (BTW, were those original committee members involved in selecting the Alexie book consulted in making the decision to rescind the Award they gave? How has his book lost its award-winning qualities because he harassed women?)

    AILA has an important voice to share in our discussions about how we treat each other and how we select appropriate materials for our collections. However, to be respected, we all must take actions deserving of respect since we will be known forever by the tracks we leave.

    As several of the 190 Comments above show, AILA and some of its members appear not to like its action being questioned and play the Native card to assert that folks not Native are not able to understand, then equate support for the harassed women to approval of their rescission: in point of fact, to question the AILA action is not to disbelieve the women nor to condone or accept Alexie’s despicable behavior. And Mr. Alexie’s behavior appears to be truly abhorrent. To be perfectly clear, let me repeat, to disagree with the AILA action is not to disbelieve the women. Please read TJG’s March 27 post from a woman who was there – she sums up the variables in the accusations, particularly wondering how someone who chooses to have an affair with married man thereby disrespecting his wife, can then claim to be a victim. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr. said that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It matters that it is inappropriate to demonize folks for different opinions or to question their motives, especially with ad hominem arguments. Some of the assumptions and false equivalencies in the preceding Comments are breathtakingly inaccurate.

    To the AILA Executive Board and the AILA Youth Lit Committee: in the name of the integrity of your mission, coupled with the ethical and moral treatment of others, reverse your decision to restore your professional respect. If you want to select future books based on an author’s personal lifestyle, rewrite your selection criteria for future awards.

    From an earlier time, when there were questions about who could write for whom about what, here are several concepts to keep in mind:

    Well, you don’t have to be a chicken to recognize an egg.
    ~ Mary Richards (on the Mary Tyler Moore Show)

    Poor Flaubert, can’t write Madame Bovary.
    ~ F.N. (Ferd) Monjo, late children’s book editor

    • The person who asked the AILA Executive Board and the AILA Youth Lit Committee to, “in the name of integrity” reverse its decision to rescind Alexie’s award so its “professional respect” would be restored is quite audacious, isn’t he?

      Some mansplaining, some Whitesplaining, and some selected use of MLK, too. He said similar things in an email. In that email, he also said AILA’s decision might make some people think of the “Indian giver” phrase. All that he says tells us a lot about tone policing and institutional racism, and Whiteness, too.

      • Observer of the Discussion says:

        This is an inappropriate comment according to the SLJ Comments policy listed below. It should be removed, or better yet, not erased but labeled as being in violation. here should be no place for ad hominem attack of other Commenters and group-painting at the open space of SLJ. It is counter to all our principles. Same thing for the comments below from Creao and Rsuilo. Take it elsewhere!

  84. Litsa has a long history of attacking POC women. If the motto is believe women read this article about how she attacked a POC woman over a petty argument online then tried to have her fired from her job. She should not be anywhere near the victims her motives are suspicious. Litsa’s name was changed here but it’s about her https://theestablishment.co/no-white-women-i-will-not-be-voting-for-hillary-9d1dec35a482

  85. this article was written about litsa trying to get a native woman fired she shouldn’t be involved in the investigation or reporting she is driven by a personal vendetta and dangerous to the victims https://theestablishment.co/no-white-women-i-will-not-be-voting-for-hillary-9d1dec35a482

  86. Nomenclature says:

    NCTE New Jersey has created a new code of conduct evidently designed to prevent Alexie-alleged incidents, that is frighteningly vague. Here is an excerpt:

    “Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

    Verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, and/or religion.”

    WTF? Does that mean if a person makes a comment that uses regular gender pronouns, or refuses to zhe or “they” a person in a private conversation or comments at a session, he or she will be evicted from the proceedings?

    https://www.njcte.com/njcte-code-of-conduct/

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