james dashner

Jay Asher, James Dashner and the #MeToo Movement in Children’s Publishing

As the #MeToo movement gained momentum, YA author Anne Ursu wondered why the stories of harassment within the publishing industry, about which she had been hearing for years, were not resurfacing. She told Bustle, “one day I realized, ‘Well, I guess it has to be me.'” So she created an anonymous survey in order find out the extent to which sexual harassment has affected those working in the children and YA publishing industry. Soon after, in the comments underneath an article on the extreme prevalence of the problem, names began to be named—big names, such as Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher, and author of The Maze Runner, James Dashner. Many of the commenters identified themselves (while remaining anonymous) as contributors to Ursu’s survey, but this time, they were not withholding the names of their alleged harassers.


anne ursu

Anne Ursu | Image Via YouTube


Jay Asher has recently been expelled from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators over the allegations, but he has denied them and is said to be seeking legal counsel. He has stated that he voluntarily left the Society and has said, “It’s very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth. 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.”


Meanwhile, James Dashner, who has been dropped by Random House, released the following statement on Twitter. 





Ursu’s survey yielded a wealth of stories regarding unpleasant experiences suffered by people, mainly, though not all, women, working in YA and children’s publishing. According to the Medium article in which Ursu examines the responses, the following are some examples:


An author wrote, “An editor who was considering my work commented very thoroughly on my body type as a possible personal advantage of working with me.” For her now, “it makes submissions feel like a minefield.” For an author/illustrator, it was at a book party with a famous illustrator; “I introduce myself to him,” she writes, “and he makes a crack about my breasts.” After enough incidents like these she’s “completely stopped socializing in this business because each time it becomes another abuse story.”


Asked by Bustle if she believes publishers and organizations cutting ties with Dashner and Asher is the correct response, Ursu said, “I do think if you harass and abuse women, you don’t get to write for kids and teens. This is a privilege and an honor.”


Featured Image Via Digital Spy