Sarah Dessen is sorry that she and a slew of other bestselling authors spent the last two days riling up their followers to harass a recent college graduate who does not care for Dessen’s young adult novels.
Following Jezebel’s reportage of the story, it has been picked up by The Guardian, the Washington Post, and Slate, to name a few, and in wake of the media attention, Dessen has issued a Twitter apology that reads, in part, “I want to apologize to the person who was quoted—I’m sorry. Like most authors, I hear all the time from people who don’t like my work. It’s part of the job.”
Earlier this week, Dessen tweeted a quote from a local news item out of Aberdeen, South Dakota, in which Brooke Nelson said that as a college junior she voted against selecting Dessen’s novel for Northern State University’s Common Read program. Along with the screenshot, Dessen wrote: “I’m having a really hard time right now and this is just mean and cruel. I hope it made you feel good.”
In response to Dessen’s tweet, fellow YA author Siobhan Vivian wrote “Fuck that fucking bitch” to which another YA author, Dhonielle Clayton, added “Can I add a few more choice words for Siobhan’s brilliance … fuck that RAGGEDY ASS fucking bitch.” By way of apology, Vivian sent an email to Vulture that read, “I tweeted something I should have DMed. I was hurt because my friend was hurt and now I’ve hurt someone else. I’m truly sorry for my part.” Thousands of Dessen’s 268,000 Twitter followers chimed in with similar sentiments.
Nelson, who is now a graduate student in linguistics studying online harassment, told several outlets in an email that her quote was taken out of context. Rather than joining the committee specifically to keep Dessen’s book off the booklist, she joined to advocate for Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, books she believed to be more appropriate for a college-level reading list. According to Vulture, Dessen’s book was one of 52 being considered that year.
Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, two best-selling authors who also joined the fray, have not deleted their tweets or apologized. However, another best-seller, Roxane Gay, who accused Nelson of having an “inflated idea” of her own “taste level” has apologized for her part in the pile-on. “When I responded to Dessen’s tweet I didn’t read the article just the screenshot,” she wrote.
Update 5:49 EST: Jennifer Weiner has apologized: