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Amélie Wen Zhao’s controversial young-adult book will be published in the fall

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Amélie Wen Zhao’s debut book, “Blood Heir” the first in a planned fantasy trilogy came under fire in January, several months before its initial June publication.
(Delacorte Press)

Amélie Wen Zhao’s young-adult novel “Blood Heir,” which was postponed by the author earlier this year after some Twitter users accused it of being racially insensitive, will be released in the fall, Publishers Weekly reports.

Zhao’s debut book, the first in a planned fantasy trilogy, came under fire in January, several months before its initial June publication, from a group of young-adult authors and readers on Twitter. They objected to a scene in the book that depicted a slave auction, criticizing it as insensitive to African Americans.

Zhao responded that the scene was inspired not by slavery in America but by human trafficking in Asia. (The Paris-born Zhao spent much of her life in Beijing, and now lives in the U.S.) Nonetheless, she agreed to postpone the book so she could revise it, and apologized to those who had taken offense.

“The issues around Affinite indenturement in the story represent a specific critique of the epidemic of indentured labor and human trafficking prevalent in many industries across Asia, including in my own home country,” she wrote. “The narrative and history of slavery in the United States is not something I can, would or intended to write, but I recognize that I am not writing in merely my own cultural context. I am so sorry for the pain this has caused.”

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The New York Times reports that Zhao changed some of the material in her novel and added new scenes after consulting with “sensitivity readers,” people who agree to read an author’s manuscript to check for stereotypes or bias that the writer might have missed.

On Twitter, Zhao wrote, “Through important dialogue that occurred recently, it became clear to me that my book was being read in a different cultural context than my own, so I decided to take the time to make sure the hallmarks of human trafficking were being incisively drawn.”

“Blood Heir” is slated for publication Nov. 19 by Random House imprint Delacorte Press.


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