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Topic: The Jewel of Medina - Sherry Jones

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Subject: The Jewel of Medina - Sherry Jones
Date Posted: 8/6/2008 7:41 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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I just found out that this book, which has been on my wishlist since I heard about it, is not going to be published after all due to it's sensitive subject. I think this is a real shame. I've enjoyed tons of Biblical fiction and was looking forward to reading about Islam. I'm also horrified that we are allowing ourselves to be censored by fear. I do understand that it's a real threat, but I feel it's censorship none the less. I just find it hard to believe they have pulled this book because someone might get upset about it.

Here's a link to the article - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121797979078815073.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

 



Last Edited on: 8/6/08 8:11 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/6/2008 8:38 PM ET
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I just read on the author's website that the book will have another english publisher. At least she's getting tons of publicity! I just can't believe Random House pulled the book over a problem that may or may not even happen. Craziness.

Date Posted: 8/6/2008 9:10 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I don't like RH's position, but I can understand it. Think of the potential liability should these death threats, etc actually happen. It's a business decision.

Which publisher is going to take it on?

Date Posted: 8/6/2008 9:45 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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She doesn't say, she just says it will be published. The plans to publish in other countries have not changed. Why do you think RH just now, or a month ago, realised the liability?

Date Posted: 8/6/2008 10:18 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2006
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I just saw it listed in my Brodart catalog as being published in August of 2008 by Ballantine Books.

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 7:45 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I imagine they received a death threat. Or perhaps the author did and shared it with them. Of course, I don't know. I have no first-hand knowledge.

But rational companies make business decisions about things that sometimes come across as unjust, unfair, insane, you name it. I can't tell you the number of times clients decide not to pursue litigation b/c of business reasons - expense, time, perceived collection difficulties (i.e., opposing side has no money), public perception. It often has more to do with business than the law.

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 9:30 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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Pamela, it was supposed to be published by Ballantine, which is a division of Random House. They've pulled out.

Random House said they heard from several credible sources that the book could cause violence due to it's subject matter. They said they are withdrawing the book to protect employee's, etc. I understand why they decided to pull it, but I think it's a bad idea to start basing your decisions on what might offend a terrorist. The other countries didn't drop the book, and I think they have far more to fear.

 

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 11:32 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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What a company says publicly and what is happening behind the scenes are often two different things. While I hope RH made a business decision, based perhaps in part on the potential liabilities, I don't know. We have to take them at their word, or second guess their motives.

If it were my company, I wouldn't risk the million dollar lawsuits that could result from a workplace incidence of violence for one book, especially if I had a death threat in hand and especially if the potential profits of the book would not outweigh the potential liability. How a publisher in another country handles the matter wouldn't affect my decision because they operate under different laws with different potential consequences.

Valli, These debates we're having are becoming habit. :-) I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 12:17 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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I just hate to see a book, something that could promote understanding and open a dialogue so people can share thoughts and opinions, scrapped because of fear.  Books like this could even introduce the figure's of Islam to the mainstream and help people to not be so afraid. This is an incredibly sad thing to me.

I read the official release put out by RH, and I do have to admire them for showing that they care about the safety of their employees. Like I said, I can definitely understand the "why" of what they did, but I just can't see choosing to limit free expression as a good thing, especially when it's done out of fear.

I can understand being afraid of the liability too. We had to learn that lesson the hard way after Katrina when our small company came very close to being sued over the repairing of a Katrina damaged home, a job we did for free. ;-)

I'm always up for a good debate! I tend to view things as "right" and "wrong" or "black" and "white" - that truly could be considered my worst fault, but, without debate or the sharing of opinions, how would I learn what others think?!

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 12:20 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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Hey, if any of you guys see an ARC of this book for sale, let me know. I really want to read it now! I'll buy it and share it with anyone who is also interested in reading it. Well, I'll buy it as long as it doesn't cost a gazilliontrillion dollars... I don't want to read it that much! ;-)

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 3:50 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I think the fundamental difference in the way we perceive the publisher's action is, you see it as an emotional response (fear) and I see it as a monetary decision. Yes, I believe they are sincere about the concern for their employees' safety. And I agree that the concern for employee safety trumps the publication of a book, regardless of how educational the content. But at the end of the day, I believe the decision is about profits, not fear.

Ball's in your court! ;-)

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 4:41 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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But, they allowed fear to trump profit. That, to me, would imply that they also made their decision from an emotional standpoint. From what they've said, they didn't even received an actual threat, just advice from people who think there is cause to be worried.

Another thing - I wouldn't see bailing on an author at the first sign of trouble as good business. Of course, this is RH and this isn't going to make someone who wants to be published reject a deal with them. No way! But, it would have been nice if they'd defended the author, especially since it seems as if this woman bears no ill will towards the Muslim community.

Ugh, I'm no good at sports. Can we use a different analogy? ;-)

 



Last Edited on: 8/7/08 4:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/7/2008 5:05 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Speaking of books.. Okay,not really, but kinda, sorta... Did you see that I got the free ARC of Devil's Brood in the mail?! If you haven't received yours, there's hope it will arrive soon. I'm so excited!

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 8:03 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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I get all my sports analogies from my boss, but I usually have to ask him which kinda ball he's talking about. LOL!

I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. The rest of the group probably thinks we're nuts for going on about it. LOL

I'll be checking the PO box this weekend for the arc. I hope I'm as lucky as you! I'll let you know.

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 8:42 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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OK, I thought I was ready to drop it. LOL! Then I went over to Smart Bitches and started reading their take on the event. You have to read this. It's hilarious.

But the reason I'm back in the debate is, apparently the legal threats have already started. SB says this whole thing started when a professor, who read the ARC, reacted badly to it. She spread the word to the Muslim community and things snowballed from there.

Get this: "After Ms. Spellberg [the prof] had a conversation with an editor at Knopf, an imprint of Random House with whom Spellberg has a book contract, alarm was raised within the company that the book, the author, and the employees of the publisher could be the victims of “widespread violence.” Spellberg followed up the conversation with a letter from her attorney stating that Spellberg would sue if her name were associated with the novel."

And this kind of legal threat is just business to publishers. But if it portends what may happen IF there is violence, then, yeah, this is as much about fear as it is profits.

So, there, OK! You win!

Oh, wait, I'm not finished. Some folks, who have access to the ARC are saying it's pretty bad - the writing and the storytelling, that is.

From the WSJ article: "The novel, for example, includes a scene on the night when Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha: 'the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion’s sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was the bliss I had longed for all my life.'"

Spare me.



Last Edited on: 8/7/08 8:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/7/2008 10:12 PM ET
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I thought you already knew all of that stuff, but I just now realised I didn't include the link to Smart Bitches in my first post. Sorry about that!

I don't know what to think about this Ms. Spellberg, but it sure sounds as if she got scared and panicked. It sounds as if she was the one to first stir the pot, huh?! She was definitely the one to first throw out the SUE! threat. I really can see why RH would be concerned about a lawsuit, but, since we were having a debate, I couldn't work for your side! LOL! Just think  of the lawsuits that could have happened if a RH employee was murdered over this after RH had been warned of the possible consequences and then chose to ignore them. Oh yeah, I'm sure there would have been lawsuits in that case. I really am wondering if a judge could hold RH liable if it could be proven that they knew there was going to be trouble before publishing. I don't know enough about the law to know the answer to that one. What do you think? I solemnly swear that I don't want to debate this. It's a hypothetical question, lol.

I was really afraid that my side in this debate would fold like a deck of cards because it really is understandable that RH would be leery of this kind of thing. Who wouldn't be? It still seems odd to me that they just now got that this could be an issue and didn't plan accordingly. Or, maybe this was the plan all along... Just ditch the book if it seems the situation is going FUBAR. LOL!

 

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 10:17 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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Oh, I forgot to comment on the excerpt. Well, I'll just say that maybe I'll wait on the wishlist and check the book out for the cost of a credit. I guess having a 25 page bibliography doesn't guarantee that the book will be a good one. ;-)

Scorpion's sting??? HAHAHA!!!

Date Posted: 8/8/2008 8:14 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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What do you think?

I'm not an attorney. But in my many years of working with them, I've come to understand they expect the unexpected; meaning you never know how a judge is going to rule or how a jury will decide. But I wouldn't want to be the owner of a company that 1) had advance knowledge of a threat, 2) either chose to ignore it or inadequately prepared to handle it, and 3) had the threat come true. Companies have been held liable for less.

Scorpion's sting??? HAHAHA!!!

Oh, yeah, ROTFLMAO!!! At least she didn't refer to the necessary equipment as a snake! LOL!

Date Posted: 8/9/2008 12:46 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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I was thinking the same exact thing, Genie. I can't remember if the publisher was sued by anyone in the Salman Rushdie problems, and I think someone actually died due to terrorism, but it wasn't an American company, so liability may be different there. Honestly, I've learned the hard way that people will sue over anything and this had the potential to be a HUGE thing, so I really can understand why a publisher would be nervous about it. Honestly, I don't think I'd have been brave enough to publish a book with this subject. I do hope it gets published though.

I'm still curious about the book though. The author sounds as if she respected her subject and really wanted to do a good job with presenting Aisha to the reader.

The author said her book was even turned down by a couple of publisher's for being too literary. Maybe using the snake reference would have been less literary than a scorpion sting?! LOL!

 

Date Posted: 8/9/2008 7:51 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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The author said her book was even turned down by a couple of publisher's for being too literary. Maybe using the snake reference would have been less literary than a scorpion sting?!

Too literary?

To be fair, I copied the above quote from a blog comment by someone who keyed it in. So who knows what's really in the book.

But if s/he keyed it accurately, well Aisha was 11 years old, and I've never felt the sting of a scorpion. LOL!

I understand that in Memoirs of a Geisha, which I never read, the analogy was an eel going into a cave. LOL!

I'm on the floor again. hehehehe

Date Posted: 8/11/2008 8:29 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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If you have access to The Chronicle of Higher Education, there's an update on the story.  Apparently, Spellberg was just the loudest, but not the only, academic to suggest the book could cause a violent backlash from fringe elements in the Muslim community.

Snippets from the article:

Ms. Spellberg said she found the book inadequately researched and had her lawyer write to the publisher demanding that her name not be associated with the book....

At the same time, however, Ms. Spellberg wrote to an editor at Alfred A. Knopf, another imprint of Random House, expressing her concern that the book could spark violent protests like those that followed the 2005 publication of cartoons in a Danish newspaper depicting the Muslim prophet with a bomb in his turban....

The editor at Knopf, in turn, sent an e-mail message to other executives at Random House, which terminated its contract with the author after getting responses from several other academics. "We consulted with security experts as well as with scholars of Islam, whom we asked to review the book and offer their assessments of potential reactions," says Random House's statement....

Meanwhile, it looks Sherry Jones is gearing up to countersue for defamation. Can't say I blame her.

Date Posted: 8/14/2008 8:51 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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There was a segment just on CNN this morning about Random House's decision not to publish this book.

Date Posted: 8/18/2008 7:55 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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Genie, did you read the second Smart Bitches blog post about this? They have the prologue of the book and are discussing it. Sherry Jones comments quite a few times too. Pretty interesting! Here's the link - http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/the-jewel-of-medina-the-prologue/

I read the prologue and, if you ignore some decidedly purplish prose, the book doesn't sound half bad. It made me want to read more...

Oh, I also saw that Sherry Jones' blog is gone. I wonder why? I wanted to see if she'd mentioned anything else about the book being published.

Date Posted: 8/18/2008 7:40 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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I'll take a look. But I hate purple prose ...

Re the blog, I wonder if there's any buzz about it elsewhere. Maybe her host received a threat? Or maybe her lawyer advised her to quit talking about it, especially if she plans to pursue a defamation claim.

EDIT: ABC News in Australia mentions the blog has been taken down, but doesn't say why. Google last crawled the site on 11 August.

Someone on a discussion forum noticed the blog was MIA on 15 August.



Last Edited on: 8/18/08 8:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 8/20/2008 11:36 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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I actually found a blog post where Sherry Jones said that she is shutting her blog down because she doesn't want to discuss the book anymore until everyone has had the chance to actually read the book. I'll see if I can find the blog again and post a link. It seemed as if she might be a bit tired of the speculation and condemnation by people who haven't even read the book. Of course, that's pure speculation on my part. ;-)

Did you see Salman Rushide's comments about this? Or, the article the Muslim professor wrote? Both were very interesting and made a lot of good points. I'll post links to both if I can find them.

The prologue wasn't fabulous, but I did find it intriguing enough to want to read more. I always give a book more than just a few pages before deciding if I should continue, and I'd like the chance to read more of this one. I've read that there are inaccuracies in the prologue, but I wonder if it's truly inaccurate or just a different interpretation of history. It's hard to say without reading more. I had this on my WL before the hype and I still want to read it, especially since I've been a bit burned-out on England and have been looking for books set in more exotic places and books featuring real people that haven't already been done to death. I'm still not completely sure if it will be published or not though. Her previous comments on her blog led me to think she had another offer, but, now, I'm not so sure. On her blog, she didn't say she was shopping the book or looking for a new publisher, her exact words were, "It will be published in English.". Maybe that was wishful thinking or a show of determination, I just don't know.

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