NEW YORK (AP) – Judges for a prominent LGBTQ literature award withdrew a planned nomination for Lauren Hough’s acclaimed collection of essays, “Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing”, after the author used sharp and at times profane language in Twitter exchanges with critics of a novel she had expressed admiration for.
Hough was to be a Lambda Award finalist for best lesbian memoirs, one of 24 categories announced last week by the Lambda Literary Organization. But her name did not appear. In a letter sent to her publisher, Penguin Random House, shortly before the announcement and shared this week with The Associated Press, Lambda quoted a series of tweets (some deleted) from earlier this month that showed a “disturbing hostility towards transgender critics and transgender-allies “who had challenged the premise of Sandra Newman’s forthcoming novel” The Men. ”
“We need to keep the line in how we communicate with each other,” Lambda’s co-executive director Cleopatra Jach Acquaye said in a recent telephone interview. “We want people to treat each other with respect and treat each other with dignity.”
Hough, who has written about the controversy on Substack, declined further comments Wednesday.
Newman’s book, scheduled for June, envisions a post-male society in which humans with the Y chromosome have disappeared. Her publisher calls “The Men” a “gripping, beautiful and disturbing novel about feminist utopias and impossible sacrifices that question the dream of a perfect society.” On Twitter, Hough wrote that she had read an early copy and could barely find the words for how good it was, emphasizing “good” with an exclamation.
In screenshots seen by The Associated Press, Newman describes “The Men” on Twitter, and a follower responds: “Pretty sure this terf plot has been published four or five times already,” using the term “trans-exclusionary” radical feminist. “
Hough replies, “Pretty sure you do not know what (pronounced) is in a book you have not read.”
In another exchange, a book reviewer praises Hough for her book, noting that “honored authors” had won awards after saying worse things. The critic also writes that Hough was “decidedly aggressive” and expresses regret that “she said such a thing.”
“I’m not sorry I said such a thing,” Hough replies.
The letter from Lambda to Penguin Random House refers to “at least a few documented cases” in which Hough used “her significant platform – in part because of her excellent book – to harmfully engage with both readers and critics.”
Last year, Hough criticized some reviews she received on the social media platform Goodreads, tweeting in derogatory terms about readers who gave her book four stars (out of five possible) to “show that they are super tough reviewers who need to fall in love, for example, do you know? At least no one likes you. “
At Substack, Hough recently wrote that Newman had been an invaluable support while working on “Leaving Is not the Hardest Thing,” her debut book, and that the two had discussed how Newman’s novel could “recognize the reality of transgender people.”
“Other books that started from this premise – all the men disappear – have erased the existence of transgender people, and it was important for her not to do that, to be as sensitive as possible,” Hough wrote. “So when I saw people assume that the simple idea was the whole plot, I asked them to read the book before they assumed the worst. For this I was branded as a TERF.”
The news about Hough, which the author himself published last weekend, has continued the ongoing debate about “cancellation culture”, and whether Hough was wrongfully punished (or exploited “cancellation culture” for publicity). Meanwhile, she was among the finalists announced this week for another leading LGBTQ award, the Triangles. A spokeswoman for the Publishing Triangle, which is handing out the awards, said there were no plans to withdraw her nomination.
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