Things Are Not Going Well Over at the National Book Critics Circle

The organization wanted to say that Black Lives Matter, and apparently not everyone agreed

Chairs set up inside a bookstore
Could this be the end for the National Book Critics Circle?
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The book people have drama again, and this time, it’s particularly intense. Over the past week or so, the National Book Critics Circle appears to have imploded, as Vulture put it.

According to the rundown, more than half of the organization’s 24 board members have resigned over the snowballing conflict, which all began last week when the National Book Critics Circle, like many other organizations in recent weeks, attempted to publish a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the statement, the nonprofit professional association hoped to acknowledge the publishing industry’s overwhelming whiteness, as well as to accept “culpability in this system of erasure” of voices of color.

Unfortunately, not everyone on the board agreed with this message, namely a certain Carlin Romano. After the organization’s president, Laurie Hertzel, ran the statement by some fellow board members in an email thread asking for feedback, Romano reportedly took issue with various claims made in the statement, as well as dismissing the statement’s general premise as “absolute nonsense.” The critic apparently objected to the statement’s claim that the publishing industry benefits from “white supremacy and institutional racism,” and that “white gatekeeping had been working to stifle black voices at every level of our industry.” After Romano voiced his objections in the email thread, Hertzel replied, telling Romano his perspective “shines unlike anyone else’s” and assuring him that his “objections are all valid, of course.”

Hertzel has since told Vulture’s Lila Shapiro that her reply was intended to placate Romano, with whom Hertzel claims she has always had “bad history,” in an attempt to prevent him from “derailing the discussion and torpedoing the vote.”

However, other board members didn’t take kindly to Hertzel’s cautious handling of Romano. Hope Wabuke, a Ugandan-American author who had suggested writing the statement, posted the exchange between Hertzel and Romano in a Twitter thread announcing her resignation from the board. “It is not possible to change these organizations from within, and the backlash will be too dangerous for me to remain,” she wrote.

Multiple waves of resignations have since followed, with one board member calling the demise “bizarre and bloody in an end-of-a-Tarantino-movie way.”

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.