Random House screws author, disses Mohammed

August 8, 2008

From its inception, through its publication, the anfractuous journey a book must make in effort to reach the ultimate reader can extend years. For some, even decades. For the author, even once the publisher has bought the manuscript, she can expect spending at least another year of massaging the prose to suit the needs of her editor before its release. A year in which an illustrator will conjure up a magnificent jacket for the book. A year in which the marketing department will brainstorm how to sell the book big, wide and long. A year in which a publicist will schedule book signings and endeavor to land favorable reviews in PW, Kirkus, The New York Times and beyond. A year in which some Big Brain at any one of the multitudinous strata of corporate levels responsible for publishing a book would muster up the gumption to stop all of this from happening way too late and for entirely the wrong, pitiable reason.

From today’s Reuters, by Edith Honan:

Publisher Random House has pulled a novel about the Prophet Mohammed’s child bride, fearing it could “incite acts of violence.”

“The Jewel of Medina,” a debut novel by journalist Sherry Jones, 46, was due to be published on August 12 by Random House, a unit of Bertelsmann AG, and an eight-city publicity tour had been scheduled, Jones told Reuters on Thursday.

The novel traces the life of A’isha from her engagement to Mohammed, when she was six, until the prophet’s death. Jones said that she was shocked to learn in May, that publication would be postponed indefinitely.

Full story



  1. Maybe she can find a publishing house with bigger balls.

  2. I don’t think it’s a case of the publisher needing more balls, but that there needs to be more sensitivity and understanding of the Middle East and of the Muslim faith. The book sounds like it was pretty offensive to the religion. At this point in the world certain members of that faith take arms when their offended.

    We need to get to a place where we can have more dialogue first and a whole lot less blood shed.

    I was recently in Istanbul and saw the pressures a modern Muslim country is facing with the influx of fundamentalism. By the end of my first day I was wearing a head scarf, but that’s another story.
    I posted the link to my essay on it.


  3. Julie,
    I didn’t mean to say that the book should be published regardless of its offensiveness. I only mean that it’s unfair of a publisher to buy a book, to lead the author to believe it will be published, then to pull the rug out from under them. Unless, of course, the author hasn’t been truthful about the work. Sorry for the confusion – me and my damn short answers!

  4. A point of clarification on “disses Mohammed” as indicated in the title of this thread. So everybody understands, the “diss” I’m referring to is specifically Random House’s clearly utterly gutless conclusion that the Big Prophet Pooh Bah (BPPB) would be so offended by a rational, humanized account of his human existence in a well-researched, vivid portrayal of his final years in novel form — one that might, maybe possibly, have educated and enlightened the willfully ignorant of all things Islam — that he himself would be offended by their decision to pull the book.

    What is equally offensive on a visceral, cerebral and spiritual level is Random House’s clear contempt of Islam, of BPPB and an author’s efforts to exact an understanding of the man’s rightful place in mono-theistic history.

    But why bother? I mean, Islam is only the biggest faith in the world. Maybe if its whacked extreme fringe instead only bombed family planning clinics and lynched black, gay college students maybe they’d get some respect.

  5. I agree, Michael. What the non-Muslim world needs is a more thorough understanding of Islam, and any book or project that helps us should be applauded. I can definitely understand, however, the fear that is behind withholding such information. Having been raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment, my church only wanted to study Christ’s divinity and turned away any mention of his humanity as heresy. We all know how it turns out when someone tries to novelize Jesus’ life. There’s always a brouhaha.

  6. Islam is a religion of respect. it respects other religions and demands respect for it self. The language micheal has used for the Prophit can only be of that of a son of a prostitute.
    As far Shery Jones is concerned she may use other ways of being famous, like nude modeling.

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