Bestselling San Luis Obispo author Jay Asher has been kicked out of a prominent writing society amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Asher, known for young adult novels like “Thirteen Reasons Why” and “The Future of Us,” has been expelled from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, according to a report by the Associated Press on Monday.
In a statement to The Tribune, Asher, who is married, said he has had affairs with consenting adults in the past, though he said those ended several years ago.
“I am ashamed of myself and the pain our actions caused our families,” he said. “During the past decade of harassment related to these affairs, I have never once retaliated. I will continue to leave my accusers to their anonymity in order to save them and their families from further hurt.”
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Society executive director Lin Oliver told the AP that Asher violated the society’s harassment code. He was banned last year, but the news only recently emerged with the rise of the #MeToo movement, followed by comments on a January School Library Journal piece on harassment in the children’s publishing industry.
The exact nature of the allegations against Asher are unclear.
Several of the comments on the School Library Journal piece pointed to a separate Medium article, in which the writer cited anonymous anecdotes from women in the industry regarding sexual harassment. A handful of commenters on the School Library Journal thread said their anecdotes were about Asher.
“I, too, experienced predatory behavior from Jay Asher,” wrote one commenter under the alias Anon#?. “When I discovered his true nature, I cut off all communication and tried to warn other women through the whisper network.”
Oliver shared a statement on the society’s Facebook page Saturday, saying the organization is working to develop a detailed policy regarding sexual harassment, a code of conduct for conferences, an “explicit reporting system for offenses and an appropriate list of consequences for offenders.”
“I love our field and with all my heart, believe it to be a loving, supportive, and upstanding community, but no community is immune from problems,” she wrote. “This is the moment for thoughtful introspection and proactive policies, and I’m proud we are able to have this fearless conversation to provoke change.”
Asher’s novel “Thirteen Reasons Why” inspired a Netflix series of the same name; that popular series met with criticism last year from those that claimed the show glamorized suicide and was inappropriate for younger watchers. (The controversy even extended to San Luis Obispo County, where some schools urged that parents take caution in deciding whether to let their kids watch it)
In an interview with The Tribune in September, Asher said the series and the novel play a vital role in addressing suicide, bullying and sexual assault.
“If we had no book out there, no TV show, anyone who’s literally dealing with (these issues) is not going to feel like they can ask for help,” he said.