#MeToo Movement Reaches YA Fiction

Far too often, a Twitter movement starts off small and quickly gains momentum before losing speed as other hashtags take precedent in the short attention span that is the collective consciousness of social media. The #MeToo movement is not one of these cases. Women are finally free to speak up and share their stories of sexual harassment and even assault at the hands of big names in Hollywood, industry and now even YA fiction.

Anne Ursu, author the children’s series The Cronus Chronicles, published earlier this month “Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry” that analyzed this grave problem. She discussed how she had talked to women within the publishing, illustrating and writing portions of the industry and how many mentioned feelings of being treated as a sexual object instead of an equal at professional events and at work by male bosses. The interviewees shared stories of being fondled, propositioned, and placed within uncomfortable power dynamics. Like many industries, as pointed out by Kayleigh Donaldson, a writer for Pajiba, the young adult fiction and children’s literature industries have a female majority but the male minority holds more highly esteemed and respected roles and places.

James Dashner.

Last month, the School Library Journal published a piece entitled “Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks” that exposed David Díaz, a children’s book illustrator and member of the prestigious Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (SCBWI) board, as well as Giuseppe Castellano, another children’s book illustrator, as having been accused of sexually harassing women. The comment section of this article truly showed the depravity of humanity and a lack of empathy, as people basically crawled in hordes out of the woodwork to talk about that one time they had a lovely encounter with Díaz or Castellano and how they simply couldn’t be predators. Many others commented to share how this lack of support and incoherent denial is why women wait to come forward, and some shared something even more insidious. Throughout the comment section, Jay Asher’s and James Dashner’s names were frequently mentioned as being guilty of sexual harassment, and it was revealed that the women accusing these two others were the ones interviewed by Ursu.

Both wildly successful in this industry, Jay Asher is the author of 13 Reasons Why and James Dashner is the author of the Maze Runner series. Asher was expelled from the SCBWI after sexual harassment claims last year, which is disturbing in it of itself but even more so with his outspokenness regarding sexual assault in his book and subsequent Netflix series. It appears now this was disingenuine and perhaps even capitalization on a hot-button issue. His spokesperson claims that Asher’s departure from the SCBWI was voluntarily and that his victims were married woman who approached him first, despite the notion that even if this is true it is besides the fact, stating, “There was no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment. These women were not subordinates of Mr. Asher; they were his peers and they each entered into romantic relationships with him voluntarily, with some initially pursuing him. Mr. Asher was married at the time of these relationships, as were many of the women.”

James Dasher, on the other hand, as taken responsibility for his actions. After he was dropped by his agent and publishing house, he posted a statement on Twitter where he apologizes and claims to be seeking counseling.

As horrific as it is to realize how widespread sexual harassment is, there is solace in the fact that knowledge is power. Victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault are now free to take back the power, when often they were also victims of deeply lopsided power struggle.