Last Thursday, December 7, we published an excerpt from Adam Valen Levinson’s memoir that should never have made it through our editorial process. Though the memoir in question recounts the writer’s dawning understanding of the orientalist gaze, and how corrosive it can be, in excerpting the beginning of the text without context, we let down our readers, who deserve better. The exoticizing language in any piece like this, the casual Othering, is not only a failure of literary empathy and observation, but it reinforces a toxic framework within which racism flourishes and power retrenches.
As we have said before, there can be no meaningful separation of the literary and the political, and the decisions we make at this website go much deeper than buzzed-about novels and tips for finishing your book. We live in a precarious era of untruth and weaponized language, in which life and death is often a matter of the syntactical “us” and “them”—so it is fundamental to our job as editors to be vigilant about the power of words to harm and dehumanize, and in this case, we failed. For that, we apologize.
As ever, we are committed to publishing writing that elevates rather than diminishes. In the coming weeks (as we have done in the past), we will continue to foreground Arab and Arab-American voices—alongside a wide array of perspectives—with the firm belief that the literary community is only as strong and vital as it is broad and inclusive.
–Jonny Diamond and Emily Firetog, Literary Hub