Jay Asher, who wrote the young adult book “Thirteen Reasons Why,” has filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, claiming they made defamatory statements about him that damaged his career.
The lawsuit says that the allegations against Asher came to light in April 2017 when Lin Oliver, the executive director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, received emails from seven anonymous women who claimed Asher used the group’s conferences to prey upon women sexually, then threatened them to stay quiet. They said they didn’t feel safe attending future events.
Asher admitted to having affairs with women he met at these conferences, but said that everything was consensual. He denies threatening these women or offering to help them professionally. The author also says he provided the organization with evidence that one of the women who accused him “sexually coerced him at a SCBWI Conference” and had been harassing him for more than 10 years.
Asher dealt with severe repercussions from the accusations. His literary agent dropped him, he lost his speaking engagements and book signings, and some bookstores took his books from their shelves.
“I do not condone harassment of any sort, and have spent my entire career standing up for its victims, so these statements were devastating,” Asher said in a statement.
The author also says that the organization never properly investigated the complaints against him and ignored evidence.
Andrew Baum, a lawyer representing the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and its executive director, Ms. Oliver, said that Mr. Asher’s lawsuit doesn’t have any merit and it “appears to be an attempt by Asher to repair his name and reputation after it became public that his private actions were inconsistent with his public persona of being an advocate and ally of women.”
Asher says he has suffered both mentally and economically from the allegations and is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.