My letter to Bethany House

in my opinionDear Bethany House,

 

I want to tell you a little bit about what it has been like growing up Jewish in America.

 

When I was in first grade, the crossing guard (a sixth grader) wouldn’t let me cross the street until the bell rang. His reason: Jews cross last.

 

When I was in High school, Young Life advisors told my friends not to hang out with me, since I was going to Hell and would drag them down with me.

 

Men threw rocks at me as I walked with other kids in an Israeli Independence Day Parade.

 

I have been asked:

Where do you hide your horns?

Why is your house so dark?

Why don’t you celebrate Christmas? Do your parents not love you?

Why did your people kill Jesus?

Why do our children have to read Anne Frank’s Diary? Or Night? Why do they have to be exposed to all that Jewish history?

Could Jews be responsible for 911?

 

About ten years ago, I believe I read an excerpt of For Such A Time in an online group. In my critique, I urged the writer that there could not be a credible romance between a Jewish prisoner and a Nazi commander. That this would be rape at best. That no Jew would yearn for a Nazi. That even if they saw some spark of humanity, that this story was not yearning to be written. If there is ONE statement we can all agree on, it’s that Nazis don’t belong in romances. Then I left the group. The concept sickened me that much.

 

Of course, I also believed that such a book, no matter how well written and researched, would ever find a publisher, especially Bethany House, a publisher I have always admired.

 

Stories are most powerful when they create discussion. As a writer who sometimes delves into themes that include faith and religion, I know that there is no way to offend no one. But I also believe that there are some things too terrible to toy with. Although I believe that most Christians would join me in scoffing at this premise, there will be many people that will use the story to discount the existence of the Holocaust. There will be others who will use it to justify statements about Jews that are hurtful. There will be a lot of people who will see this book as validation for feelings of racism and Anti Semitism.

 

You are a Christian publisher.

 

In publishing and celebrating this book, I believe you have done harm.

Sincerely,

 

Sarah Aronson

 

 

10 Responses
  1. Alex

    Hear, hear. Creative license notwithstanding, some boundaries should not be crossed,

    Bethany is crossing that boundary amid a landscape of increasing anti semitism.

  2. While the willful ignorance of the author (if For Such a Time was indeed the book you read in that critique group) and the obliviousness of RWA are upsetting, the true responsibility lies with Bethany House. It takes much time and effort to bring a book to publication, and it passes through many hands at a publishing house. That no one–NO ONE–at Bethany House had the least bit of pause in reading this book, not the least inkling that it would be as offensive to Jews as the story line is, beggars belief. Shame on Bethany House and everyone there involved in the publication of For Such a Time.

  3. Dear Sarah,
    Shocked to hear about this book. Anti-semitism is not just offensive to Jewish people, it is – or should be – offensive to all people.
    Warm wishes and thanks for this post.
    Padma

  4. Stumbled over through google. I had been assuming that Breslin just didn’t know any Jewish people or much about Judaism at all. That she wrote the book out of ignorance. I also don’t know anything about Bethany, but figured they were a Christian Inspirational brand, maybe a fly by night and probably operating in such an insular world they’d have no idea how offensive this would be if it ever escaped the confines of a very small readership. This changes everything. Breslin KNEW or should have.

    It’s interesting that your tack is they never should have published it. Some people are rallying on the web about a freedom of expression etc. But the truth is there’s a difference between having a right and having a platform. As a publishing house Bethany makes decisions all the time about what it takes on. They don’t publish everything. I’m sure they let worthy books go all the time. This isn’t about preventing the free flow of ideas, but about choices.

    If Bethany had said no and WHY, maybe even took on Breslin’s other book, chances are no one outside a small circle would have seen it. If she felt strongly the world needed to, she could have self-published and then this would have been on her.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Marion. Every publisher rejects great books. This is a set up that should have raised eyebrows, no matter what the quality of writing looked like. Our industry: writers, agents, editors, publishers….we have a responsibility to readers, especially when we invoke time periods like this one.

      I have been impressed with the thoughtful dialogue about this book. I hope that we continue to discuss how to bring diverse characters into stories in an authentic, accurate, and meaningful way.

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