Judges draw nomination for Lauren Hough’s book
Author of acclaimed debut collection of essays stripped of major LGBTQ literary nomination
NEW YORK — The judges of a major LGBTQ literature prize have withdrawn a slated nomination for Lauren Hough’s acclaimed essay collection, “Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing,” after the author used pointed language and sometimes profane in exchanges on Twitter with critics of a novel she had expressed her admiration for.
Hough was supposed to be a Lambda Award finalist for best lesbian memoir, one of 24 categories announced last week by the Lambda Literary organization. But his name did not appear. In a letter sent to his publisher, Penguin Random House, shortly before the announcement and shared this week with The Associated Press, Lambda cited a series of tweets (some deleted) from earlier this month that showed “disturbing hostility towards transgender and trans-allied critics” who had challenged the premise of Sandra Newman’s forthcoming novel “The Men.”
“We have to toe the line in how we communicate with each other,” Lambda co-executive director Cleopatra Jach Acquaye said in a recent phone interview. “We want people to treat each other with respect and to treat each other with dignity.”
Hough, who wrote about the Substack controversy, declined to comment further on Wednesday.
Newman’s book, due out in June, imagines a post-masculine society in which people with the Y chromosome would have disappeared. Her publisher calls “The Men” a “gripping, beautiful, and disturbing novel of feminist utopias and impossible sacrifices that interrogates the dream of a perfect society.” On Twitter, Hough wrote that she had read an early copy and was struggling for words to say how good it was, emphasizing “good” with an expletive.
In screenshots seen by The Associated Press, Newman describes “The Men” on Twitter and a follower replies, “I’m pretty sure this terf plot has been posted four or five times already,” using the term of “transexclusive radical feminist”.
Hough replies, “I’m pretty sure you don’t know what the (expletive) is in a book you haven’t (expletive) read.”
In another exchange, a book reviewer praised Hough for her book and noted that “revered writers” had won awards after saying worse things. The reviewer also writes that Hough was “definitely aggressive” and expresses regret “that she said things like that”.
“I’m not sorry for saying things like that,” Hough replies.
Lambda’s letter to Penguin Random House refers to “at least a few documented instances” when Hough used “his substantial platform – in part because of his excellent book – to engage in harmful ways with readers and reviews”.
Last year, Hough slammed some of the criticism she received on the social media platform Goodreads, tweeting disparagingly about readers who gave her book four stars (out of a possible five) for “showing that they’re super tough critics who have to, like, fall in love, you know? Nobody likes you anyway.
On Substack, Hough wrote recently that Newman had been invaluable support while she worked on “Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing,” her first book, and that the two had discussed how Newman’s novel could ” recognize the reality of transgender people”. ”
“Other books that started from this premise – all men disappear – erased the existence of trans people, and it was important to her not to do that, to be as sensitive as possible,” Hough wrote. . “So when I saw people assuming that simple idea was the entire plot, I told them to read the book before assuming the worst. For that, I was TERF labeled.
Hough’s short story, which the author herself made public last weekend, continued the ongoing debate about “cancel culture” and whether Hough was unduly punished (or exploited the “cancel culture” for publicity purposes). Meanwhile, she was among the finalists announced this week for another top LGBTQ award, the Triangles. A spokesperson for the Publishing Triangle, which presents the awards, said there were no plans to withdraw his nomination.