By Hannah Collins
On 25 March, YA author Brian D. Kennedy tweeted about his upcoming book, A Little Bit Country, and its status on the website of big-box store Target. Due to be published on 31 May by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, the novel is, according to the author himself, “a gay rom-com.” Despite being available for pre-order on the superstore’s website earlier in the year, Kennedy was alarmed to find that it had seemingly disappeared from the online shop, “along with some other queer debut books.” This is a devastating blow to authors from the LGBTQ+ community, who have only just begun to gain the recognition and space they deserve within publishing. It becomes even more problematic when considering that “straight titles” from the same publisher remain on Target’s website. Kennedy told Publishers Weekly that “as queer authors, because of LGBTQ+ books being banned and the ‘don't say gay’ bill, this is something we really have to watch out for and try and protect ourselves, and our readers and our books. And make sure that we're not being censored.”
Word also started to spread on Twitter that this wasn’t just happening to Kennedy: other texts by queer writers, specifically debut authors and authors of colour, had also been removed from the website. Another writer, Lane Clarke (known as @lanewriteswords on Twitter), also tweeted about the multitude of representational books that were no longer available for purchase on the Target website, listing a series of books that were affected, including The Witchery, Ophelia After All, We Deserve Monuments, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School and Deep in Providence. In capital letters at the bottom of her tweet she also called out the retail company, asking them to explain their actions: “ALL GONE. ALL QUEER. ALL BY DEBUT WRITERS OF COLOUR. EXPLAIN YOURSELF.”
Target did indeed respond, and in a statement to Publishers Weekly, the company reiterated what it had already told the authors who had contacted them about the book omissions: it claims the issue arose due to a website change and was in no way done as a malicious act. Author Miel Moreland spoke on the matter, saying that in her online discussions about the issue, people “did not feel it was a deliberate, malicious act on the part of Target.” However, it does raise questions as to why books from this community, both in terms of topic and authorship, were noticeably affected. As of 28 March, the majority of the texts have returned. Despite the act not being deliberate on the part of Target, who is often considered to be “a much more queer-friendly corporation,” the company should have been clearer and explained its motivations in better detail to consumers.