A young adult author has been ‘canceled’ after she defended the writers of The Scarlett Letter and other classic novels on
The incident occurred when antiracist and anti-bias educator Lorena Germán wrote a tweet on November 30 advocating for more diversity among books that are taught in schools.
In response, Jessica Cluess, who wrote the Kingdom of Fire series, called Germán an ‘idiot’ and said authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote works criticizing the very societies in which their novels took place.
This led to Cluess’s agent dropping her after what he described as ‘condescending and personal attacks’ by his former client.
On November 30, antiracist educator Lorena Germán (left) tweeted about how many classics were written before the 1950s and needed to be ‘switched up.’ Young adult author Jessica Cluess (right) responded by calling Germán an ‘idiot’ and defending Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote The Scarlet Letter
Germán is perhaps best known for being one of the founders of the #DisruptTexts hashtag and
The movement is meant to center more voices of color in literature and apply a critical lens to many texts written by white authors.
‘Did y’all know that many of the “classics” were written before the 50s?’ German wrote on Twitter on November 30.
‘Think of US society before then & the values that shaped this nation afterwards. THAT is what is in those books. That is why we gotta switch it up. It ain’t just about “being old.”‘
The tweet received nearly 900 likes and more than 140 retweets.
However, it was not well received by Cluess, who – in a series of now-deleted tweets – defended many classic authors.
She referenced Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote The Scarlet Letter about Hester Prynne, a woman in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony who conceives a daughter after having an affair and is made to wear a red ‘A’ on her chest.
Cluess said Hawthorne was not criticizing Hester for her ‘sin’ but the Puritan society for their judgement of her.
‘If you think Hawthorne was on the side of the judgmental Puritans in The Scarlet Letter then you are an absolute idiot and should not have the title of educator in your bio,’ she wrote.
‘If you think Upton Sinclair was on the side of the meat packing industry then you are a fool and should sit down and feel bad about yourself.’
This in reference to Sinclair’s novel The Jungle, which portrayed the poor working conditions of immigrants in the US.
Many people on Twitter soon began calling Cluess a racist and asking that her publisher, Random House Kids, drop her
Cluess continued: ‘Ah yes, remember Their Eyes Were Watching God, and other literature of the extraordinary Harlem Renaissance? I guess not. D**k.’
This anti-intellectual, anti-curiosity bulls**t is poison and I will stand here and scream that it is sheer godd**n evil until my hair falls out. I do not care.’
It was not long before Germán saw the tweets and responded to them.
‘What’s interesting to me is how I present a position on an academic point, and yet this 55%er decides to attack me personally over and over again. Sounds like I struck a confederate nerve,’ she wrote.
Many people on Twitter soon began calling Cluess a racist and asking that her publisher, Random House Kids, drop her.
The backlash led Cluess to delete her tweets just one day later and issue an apology.
One day later, Cluess issued an apology to Germán and called her words ‘misguided, wrong, and deeply hurtful’
Two days after the apology, her agent, Brooks Sherman, announced that he was dropping Cluess as a client due to her ‘racist’ tweets
‘I take full responsibility for my unproved anger against Lorena Germán and the impact of my words on her and all who read them,’ it read in part.
‘I want to acknowledge the pain I caused, and to apologize sincerely for it. My words were misguided, wrong, and deeply hurtful.’
Just two days later, on December 3, her agent, Brooks Sherman, distanced himself from Cluess and dropped her as a client.
‘I hold myself to certain personal and professional standards for the values I support,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘I no longer represent Jessica Cluess. Her tweets against Loren Germán earlier this week were racist and unacceptable.’