Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson just secured a major book deal from Random House. The book, entitled “Lovely One,” is aptly named given the sharp contrast to the reception to the book deal given to her colleague, Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett’s book, also with a Random House company, was opposed by publishers and editors including over 50 who publicly claimed to be working at Penguin Random House companies. She was deemed a persona non grata by editors who wanted to prevent readers from reading about her own personal views and history.
“Lovely One” will tell Jackson’s life’s story and she will receive an advance of $1 million. I am delighted by the news of the book. Jackson has a fascinating life story to tell.
It is the reception to the book that is most striking. As discussed earlier, various publishers and editors publicly called for Barrett to be barred from publication due to her jurisprudential views. It did not matter that these views are generally shared not only by over half of the Supreme Court and hundreds of judges but arguably half of the voters. After all, why burn books when you can effectively ban them?
The public letter entitled “We Dissent” made the usual absurd protestation that, just because we are seeking to ban books of those with opposing views, we still “care deeply about freedom of speech.” They simply justified their anti-free speech position by insisting that any harm “in the form of censorship” is less than “the form of assault on inalienable human rights” in opposing abortion or other constitutional rights. Yet, the letter is not simply dangerous. It is perfectly delusional. While calling for the book to be blocked, the editors and writers bizarrely insisted “we are not calling for censorship.”
Among the “literary figures” who signed the public petition were Penguin Random house editors and staff. This included over fifty individuals who listed their association with Penguin and Random House in publicly calling for the book banning. While we cannot confirm many of these signatories, they remain publicly posted and some claim senior positions at the company:
Listed in order on the petition:
- Michelle Lee, Assistant Editor/Penguin Young Readers
- Ada Fung, Editor, Penguin Random House
- Mary, Penguin Publishing Group
- Isabella Biedenharn, Random House
- Estelle Malmed, Senior Associate, Ebook Dev Ops, Penguin Random House
- Abbe Wright, Penguin Random House
- Bridget Sweet, Production Editor, Penguin Random House
- Maija Baldauf, Penguin Publishing Group
- Emily Schultz, Author with Penguin Random House
- Emily Hoffman, Assistant Managing Editor/Penguin Random House
- Megan Tripp, Senior Social Media Manager, Random House Group
- Emilie Mills, Subsidiary Rights/Penguin Random House
- Bridget [No Last Name listed], Penguin Random House
- Ty Nowicki, Director Creative Ops / Random House
- Emi Lotto, Production Manager, Penguin Random House
- Claire Yee, Senior editor / Penguin Random House
- James Akinaka, Digital Marketing Manager, Penguin Random House
- Angela Sardella, Penguin Random House
- Corina Diez, Marketing Associate/ Random House
- Anna Scheithauer, Copyright Associate/Penguin Random House
- Korra Saqqara (Christa Angelios), Copyright Associate, Penguin Random House
- Ashleigh Heaton, Assistant Director of Marketing, Penguin Random House
- Josh Luft, Sr. Manager/Penguin Random House
- Heather Lewis, Copyrights Assoc. / Penguin Random House LLC
- Gretchen Durning, Associate Editor / Penguin Random House
- Kate Bennion, Penguin Random House
- Lindsey Tulloch, Penguin Random House
- Casey Nugent, Penguin Random House
- Molly Humphrey, Penguin Random House
- Alex Cruz-Jimenez, Marketing Associate, Penguin Random House
- Sarah Blumenstock, Senior Editor/Penguin Random House
- Carole DeSanti, ex-VP and Exec Ed, PenguinRandomHouse
- Miranda Stinson, Penguin Random House (former employee, 2019-2021)
- Yunyi Zhang, Managing Editorial Assistant/Penguin Publishing Group
- Katelyn MacKenzie, Production Manager/Penguin Random House
- Maya Smith, Penguin Random House
- Sarah Turbin, Penguin Random House
- Kayla Steinorth, Penguin Random House
- Danielle K, Penguin Random House
- Kristine Swartz, Senior Editor, Penguin Random House
- Rob Holden, Penguin Random House
- Hope Ellis, Managing editor, Penguin Random House
- Dasia Payne, Managing Editorial, Penguin Random House
- Charlotte Lesnick, Penguin Random House
- Richard Wylde, Penguin Random House
- Alison Wallach, Penguin Random House
- Maggie Hinders, Penguin Random House
- Becca Brummett, Associate Manager/Penguin Random House
- Grant Griglak, Director / Penguin Random House
- Irene Gould, Penguin Random House
- Liz Lee, Managing Editor, Penguin Random House Canada
Again, the signatures of these petitions are not authenticated or confirmed. Indeed, some “literary figures” signed simply as “Barbara Hirsch, Avid reader” or only gave initials or first names (including two alleged employees identified only as “Mary” and “Bridget”).
Conservative, libertarian, or even contrarian writers often discuss how difficult it is to be published today due to the bias of editors and reviewers. This bias is often kept concealed and even denied in public. In this case, however, over 50 self-identified as Penguin Random House editors and staff members to expressly call for the banning of books by those who hold opposing views on issues like abortion.
For Barrett, the intolerance was nothing new. At her alma mater, Rhodes College alumni sought to strip references to Barrett from the college because they disagree with her views. Her college sorority was even forced to apologize for simply congratulating her for being one of a handful of women to be nominated to the high court.
No attack appears to be beyond the pale for media or the left. Barrett sat through days of such baseless attacks on her character and even had to face attacks referencing her children. Ibram X. Kendi, the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, claimed that her adoption of two Haitian children raised the image of a “white colonizer” and suggested that the children were little more than props for their mother.
That is the difference between being the “Lovely One” or the “Evil One” in the eyes of editors and writers. Rather than transcending their own bias and working for a diversity of opinions in publications, these editors and writers want less free expression on the pages of Penguin Random House and other publications. They are not alone. The petition contains editors from the largest academic and commercial publishers.
This letter was not simply another manifestation of viewpoint intolerance. It is a statement would seem to constitute virtual self-loathing from people who work in the literary world; writers and editors who cannot abide the publication of opposing views.