The #MeToo moment has reached the children’s publishing world, and Jay Asher, the author of 13 Reasons Why and other young adult novels, is among the names emerging from the fallout. Asher is no longer a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, according to a statement from the society’s executive director, Lin Oliver. “Both Jay Asher and [illustrator] David Diaz were found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment,” she told the Associated Press. “Claims against them were investigated and, as a result, they are no longer members and neither will be appearing at any SCBWI events in the future.”
Oliver elaborated further to BuzzFeed, explaining that the society “felt that terminating [Asher’s] membership was the proper course of action,” after an investigation into anonymous reports of harassment apparently made via email. Asher ceased to be a member of the society sometime last year, but his cancelled membership only became public after he was named in the comments of an article in the School Library Journal about sexual harassment within the industry.
While some outlets are reporting that Asher was expelled from the organization, Oliver’s statement is not specific about the circumstances of him leaving, and the YA author told BuzzFeed that it was his decision to leave, adding that he feels that he is the one who has been harassed. “It’s very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth,” he said. “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.” He also said that SCBWI told him “the emails showed nothing” at the time of the investigation.
Netflix told Entertainment Weekly that Asher was not involved in the making of Season 2 of its adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, which is expected to premiere sometime this year.
Update, Feb. 14: A spokesperson for Jay Asher has issued the following statement denying that Asher has been accused of harassment and disputing his membership status with SCBWI:
The SCBWI’s recent statement about author Jay Asher is completely false. There was no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment.
In April 2017, Mr. Asher voluntarily agreed that he would no longer attend SCBWI conferences. This was in response to hurt feelings of a group of authors with whom he had consensual relationships that ended poorly.
Mr. Asher was not banned by the SCBWI. In fact, when he let his membership in the group lapse last summer, Lin Oliver, the group’s executive director, suggested that he keep his membership going. He did as requested, and Mr. Asher’s membership is active today.
These women were not subordinates of Mr. Asher; they were his peers and they each entered into romantic relationships with him voluntarily, with some initially pursuing him.
Mr. Asher was married at the time of these relationships, as were many of the women. He is deeply sorry for the pain these consensual decisions caused his family, and others.
The false statements to the news media have resulted in inaccurate and hurtful news coverage, which is threatening Mr. Asher’s livelihood. Mr. Asher has retained legal counsel and is demanding SCBWI and Lin Oliver promptly retract the false and defamatory statements they made.