It looks like AWP has a diversity problem.
Social media has been aflame with commentary over a Huffington Post piece meant to address charges that AWP -- the Assn. of Writers & Writing Programs -- doesn't support diversity at its annual conference. Titled "AWP Is Us," the post's references to ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians rehearsed outdated cliches that immediately offended a wide readership.
@Kate_Gale what part of that violent, racist, xenophobic, dismissive rant is supposed to build community? And why didn't you edit it?— Danez Smith (@Danez_Smif) August 25, 2015
Critics were particularly concerned that the post was written by Kate Gale, one of 18 members of the Los Angeles subcommittee involved in planning events around AWP's 2016 conference, which will be held in the city. Gale, founder and managing editor of the L.A.-based Red Hen Press, has removed her piece from the Huffington Post site, replacing it with an apology, sort of.
This person has no friends to tell her, Girl don't do it. http://t.co/QzF0cVQnDp— roxane gay (@rgay) August 25, 2015
Me when I read "awp is us" pic.twitter.com/CcrdSLgUzE— Kima Jones (@kima_jones) August 25, 2015
Gale's piece -- which can be read in its entirety in a screen capture at Publishers Weekly -- followed a petition launched last week that claims the organization "is not meeting the needs of writers with disabilities." Gale's piece listed a number of minority and marginalized groups and appeared to make light of their complaints.
Gale's piece included this anecdote: "This summer I was at a dinner and someone leaned across to me and confided, 'AWP hates Native Americans.' 'Really now?' I said. 'I'm going to be in Washington this summer and I'd love to discuss this with them.' I took out a pen and paper. 'Who hates Indians at the office there? Is it Fenza?' I pictured [AWP Executive Director] David Fenza saddling up a horse, Stetson in place, going out to shoot Indians." She attempted to express her affinity for minority groups by explaining that she herself is "50% Jewish" and "30% gay."
Imagine being a person of color or LGBTQ w/ a book published by Red Hen Press...& then you read this: AWP Is Us http://t.co/crZ6QQmDPQ— Mitchell L H Douglas (@MLHDouglas) August 25, 2015
The whole time I was reading "AWP Is Us" I kept saying "no — no — no." It makes me sick.— Emilia Phillips (@gracefulemilia) August 25, 2015
But no seriously, the flippancy w which @Kate_Gale addressed accusations of racism/homophobia/etc @ AWP tells us everything we need to know.— Dakota Garilli (@dakoter818) August 25, 2015
Alternate title for Kate Gale's "AWP is Us" piece: "Why does everyone have to bother me while I'm resting in my nest of white tranquility?"— Jonterri Gadson (@JaytotheTee) August 25, 2015
On Wednesday, AWP officially distanced itself from Gale's statement.
AWP board and staff were unaware of Kate Gale’s Huffington Post article until it was posted. AWP did not and does not endorse the article.— AWP (@awpwriter) August 26, 2015
Some longtime supporters of AWP such as professor and critic Rigoberto González expressed support of the organization as a whole.
If I am getting touchy about this AWP drama it's because I know its strengths as well and how it benefits writers. Especially students.— Rigoberto González (@MariposaBoy) August 26, 2015
Others pointed out that Gale had not represented Los Angeles particularly well.
Amazed we accept this level of WTFery as gatekeeping elite in our discipline while so many thoughtful, daring artists toil at the margins.— Erin Keane (@eekshecried) August 25, 2015
Reminder that the LA literary scene is chock-full of amazing, talented and diverse writers, please don't judge LA by one whack person.— Colin Dickey (@colindickey) August 25, 2015
When reached for comment, Gale declined to respond to the Los Angeles Times' questions, instead supplying her previously written statement.