Criticism of diversity issues at AWP inflamed by Kate Gale piece


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 Titled "AWP Is Us," the post's references to ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians rehearsed outdated cliches that immediately offended a wide readership.

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.

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."

On Wednesday, AWP officially distanced itself from Gale's statement.

Some longtime supporters of AWP such as professor and critic Rigoberto Gonz&aacutelez expressed support of the organization as a whole.

Others pointed out that Gale had not represented Los Angeles particularly well.

When reached for comment, Gale declined to respond to the Los Angeles Times' questions, instead supplying her previously written statement.

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