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Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher leaves writers' group after sexual harassment claims

Author Jay Asher, pictured at the premiere of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why in 2017.
Author Jay Asher, pictured at the premiere of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why in 2017. Photograph: David Livingston/Getty Images

Jay Asher, author of the bestselling young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, has claimed he left a prominent writers’ organisation voluntarily, after the group announced it had “expelled” him due to allegations of sexual harassment.

Lin Oliver, executive director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, told the Associated Press on Monday that Asher and prize-winning illustrator David Diaz had both violated the society’s harassment code and subsequently been expelled from the group in 2017.

“Both Jay Asher and David Diaz were found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment,” Oliver wrote in an email. “Claims against them were investigated and, as a result, they are no longer members and neither will be appearing at any SCBWI events in the future.”

After an article in School Library Journal began attracting comments naming many more alleged sexual harassers working in children’s literature, some of them SCBWI members, Oliver wrote a statement clarifying that only Diaz and Asher had been reported to the organisation. “Both have been expelled from the SCBWI and are not welcome as members, faculty or speakers. All the other names are truly new to me,” she wrote, announcing a dedicated email address for accusers to report similar behaviour.

Asher told BuzzFeed that he felt he’d been “thrown under the bus”, because the SCBWI had told him at the time that the emails sent to them making the allegations “showed nothing”. He said he spoke to Oliver on the phone after learning of the accusations and decided to leave the SCBWI voluntarily.

“It’s very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth,” he said. “I feel very conflicted about it just because of what’s going on in the culture and who’s supposed to be believed and who’s not.”

“The truth is that I had been harassed by these people for close to 10 years,” he added, of the anonymous complainants who reported him to the SCBWI. “And I just could not deal with it any more.”

Asher is best known for his 2007 debut novel Thirteen Reasons Why, which was adapted into a Netflix TV series in 2017. Set in the aftermath of a high-school student’s suicide, the series and book attracted some controversy for the depiction of suicide and a rape scene. Several mental health groups, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, condemned the show as “romanticising” suicide, with children’s charity the NSPCC reporting that young people had cited the show as a trigger for suicidal thoughts.

Netflix, which is planning to bring Thirteen Reasons Why back for a second series this year, did not immediately respond to a query about whether the allegations would affect the show’s status.

On Monday, the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation told the Associated Press that Asher would not be giving a scheduled keynote address at its conference in May.

“Mr Asher has denied the accusations, but in the end understood our decision to go in a different direction,” said the federation’s publicity director, author Jennifer McMurrain.

Diaz, who was also on the SCBWI board before the allegations were made, won the prestigious Caldecott medal for illustration for the 1994 book Smoky Night, and has worked on dozens of books, including Me, Frida and The Little Scarecrow Boy. The Guardian has contacted Diaz for comment.

This article titled "Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher leaves writers' group after sexual harassment claims" was written by Sian Cain and agencies, for on Tuesday 13 February 2018 05.52pm


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