You’re more likely wondering who Amélie Wen Zhao is. Her story is circulating around conservative sites based largely on this Tablet article.
Amélie Wen Zhao had what looked like a very promising career as a young-adult fiction author ahead of her. Last January it was announced that Zhao, who was born in Paris, raised in Beijing, and presently works in finance in Manhattan, had sold a debut three-book trilogy to Delacorte Press, a Penguin Random House imprint, in “a major deal.” In publishing-speak this means her advance was at least $500,000, an outcome most first-time authors writing in any genre could only dream of
The Young Adult publishing online world has become a creepy Machiavellian place where accusations of political incorrectness circulated online by influencers are used to destroy careers based on nothing whatsoever. And that appears to have happened here.
YA Twitter was attacking Zhao’s still unpublished Blood Heir on multiple fronts. As usual, the standards of argument appeared rather strange and lacking, at least to an outsider. L.L. McKinney, a YA author who recently published her own debut novel, highlighted for her 10,000-plus Twitter followers the fact that one of Blood Heir’s blurbs read, in part, “In a world where the princess is the monster, oppression is blind to skin color, and good and evil exists in shades of gray….” “….someone explain this to me. EXPLAIN IT RIGHT THE FUQ NOW,” she tweeted. “I don’t give a good god damn that this is an author of color,” she said later in the tweetstorm. “Internalized racism and anti-blackness is a thing and I…no.” The argument, such as it is, appears to be that because in our world, oppression isn’t blind to skin color, to write about a fantasy world in which it is is an act of “anti-blackness.”
The only remotely coherent part of the attack is that the book has a slave with “bronze” colored skin dying.
Long story, short. Zhao, her publisher and presumably her agent made the decision to pull the series. Crybullies win. And if the only thing you know about the story comes from the Jesse Singal piece in The Tablet, then Zhao looks like a victim.
But nope. She’s a perpetrator who fell afoul of her own social justice mob in Twitter’s Night of the Long Knives.
A scroll through her Twitter history shows that Zhao generally followed her own advice in the year after she sold her book, boosting fellow authors and writing about the issues she faced as part of YA’s nonwhite minority. (In one tweet, she mused: “I’ve been asked several times why I didn’t write a Chinese #ownvoices novel. I don’t want to be boxed into the permanent ‘Other;’ I want diverse books written by PoC to become part of the mainstream.”)
It’s worth noting here that the role of Asian women within YA’s writers of color contingent has been a flashpoint for conflict before — one that led Zhao to butt heads with YA queen bee Justina Ireland in May 2018. After Ireland wrote a (since deleted) tweet that some readers interpreted as exclusionary gatekeeping of the “POC” label, Zhao launched a long thread asserting that Asian women are, indeed, women of color, including some pointed language about those who would suggest otherwise
It’s impossible to say whether this eight-month-old beef helped spark a retaliatory campaign by Ireland’s supporters, or perhaps primed critics to focus on Zhao’s alleged insensitivity to the history of African-American slavery.
For those who aren’t following this, we’re talking about online personalities engaging in online social justice drama and fighting over who gets to be in the front of the POC “people of color” line for privileged minorities. All these people are terrible and they’re fighting each other over their minority privilege. With lots of personal drama thrown in.
When you eliminate all the ordinary people (forget conservative writers, that’s not even a thing in these circles), you’re left with the children of the revolution devouring each other. Or a Maoist Culture War, which you might have thought Zhao would be familiar with.
There’s no more sympathy to be offered here than there is for Trotsky being done in with an ax.
This isn’t wolves devouring sheep. It’s wolves devouring wolves. It’s the vile rhetoric of political correctness and intersectionality being used to purge fellow travelers, leaving nothing but the most talentless and obnoxious lefties standing.
Should you care about this?
If you buy your children or grandchildren any books, don’t buy them any contemporary Young Adult fiction. End of story.