James Patterson, the prolific author of bestselling thrillers and other books, apologized Tuesday after saying in an interview that older white male writers face “just another form of racism” that makes it difficult for them to get jobs Find.
Widely regarded as one of the most commercially successful writers of recent decades, Mr Patterson’s comments immediately sparked backlash after being published in the Sunday Times in London this week.
“I apologize for saying that white male writers struggling to find work is a form of racism,” Mr Patterson wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “I absolutely do not believe that racism is practiced against white writers. Please note that I strongly support a diversity of voices being heard – in literature, in Hollywood, everywhere.”
Mr Patterson, who is 75 and white, has sold nearly 450 million books since 1976, according to The Sunday Times.
A staple of the bestseller lists, he has written children’s books and biographies, as well as science fiction and fantasy works. He is perhaps best known for his mystery series Women’s Murder Club and his series about Alex Cross, a black detective and psychologist. The Cross books were adapted into films starring Morgan Freeman and Tyler Perry.
Mr. Patterson has also written two books with former President Bill Clinton and a book, Run, Rose, Run, with Dolly Parton, which was published in March. In 2019 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal. A White House citation accompanying the honor called him “one of the most accomplished American writers of our time.”
In his interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Patterson spoke about the success of the Cross books.
“I just wanted to create a character that happens to be black,” he said. “I wouldn’t have tried to write a serious saga about a black family. It’s different in a detective story because the plot is so important.”
But it was Mr. Patterson’s remarks about older white writers that drew the most attention. The newspaper reported that Mr Patterson had expressed concern that these writers were finding it difficult to find work in film, theatre, television and publishing.
The problem is “just another form of racism,” Mr Patterson told The Sunday Times from the patio of his home on the Hudson River north of New York City. He spends most of the year in Florida, the newspaper reported.
“What is this all about?” Mr Patterson said. “Can you get a job? Yes. Is it harder? Yes. It’s even harder for older writers. You don’t meet many 52-year-old white men.”
The comments drew harsh criticism from writers and others, who noted that despite efforts to increase diversity, the publishing world has remained overwhelmingly white.
In a company survey released in September 2020, Hachette, Mr. Patterson’s publisher, found that among its new writers and illustrators, only 22 percent were black. A lack of diversity was also an issue in Hachette’s workforce, which was 69 percent white. And 80 percent of senior executives were white.
Other major publishers have reported similar homogeneity in their ethnic and racial makeup. A 2020 study conducted at Penguin Random House found that about 80 percent of its employees were white.
In an audit of its contributors, which included authors, illustrators, and other creators, conducted by Penguin Random House, the company found that 75 percent were white, 5 percent Hispanic, 6 percent black, and approximately 7 percent Asian.
“What a stupid statement by James Patterson,” wrote Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, author of This Is Why I Resist: Don’t Define My Black Identity. on twitter. She suggested that Mr Patterson read books to educate himself about racism.
“He misses the good old days when white men had ALL writing jobs?” she wrote.
Jason Pinter, the founder of Polis Books, an independent publisher, said he has attended editorial meetings where books by Black, Indigenous and other writers of color have been rejected because “we already have one.”
“I respect everything James Patterson has done for indies and given back to the industry, but his comments on race are wrong, hurtful and beyond deaf,” Mr Pinter wrote on twitter.
Frederick Joseph—author of The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person and Patriarchy Blues: Reflections on Manhood— said “Patriarchy Blues” was rejected by 20 publishers “who didn’t think people would buy a black book about patriarchy.”
“James Patterson believes that white men in publishing face racism,” said Mr. Joseph wrote on Twitter on Monday. “From a black man who turned down over 50 books (all of which are bestsellers now) because white editors don’t understand them or ‘already have black male authors’ … shut up.”
Rebecca Carroll, the author of the memoir Surviving the White Gaze, also dismissed Mr. Patterson’s comments.
“Imagine being born the year Jackie Robinson became the first black MLB player in history,” she said wrote on Twitter“And then growing up to be one of America’s wealthiest writers and talking about struggles for white men is ‘another form of racism.'”