Best-Selling Author Dropped as Literary Judge for Criticizing Penguin Random House's New Diversity Policy

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Unable to withstand criticism, the left’s beloved god called diversity appears to be quite fragile. It appears that way because criticism of diversity frequently results in swift retribution doled out on those who dare to commit the mortal sin of expressing their opinion. Lionel Shriver, who wrote the best-selling book We Need to Talk About Kevin, is the latest person to be sacrificed on the altar dedicated to the worship of diversity.


After receiving an email about Penguin Random House’s new diversity policy, Shriver was troubled. Ignoring the fact that only complete acceptance of their dogma is acceptable to leftists, Shriver wrote an op-ed for The Spectator titled “Great Writers Are Found With an Open Mind.” She opened her piece with the sharp rebuke: “I’d been suffering under the misguided illusion that the purpose of mainstream publishers like Penguin Random House was to sell and promote fine writing.”

You see, Lionel Shriver is concerned because Penguin’s new diversity policy states that the company has removed “the need for a university degree from nearly all our jobs.”

To that, she poignantly (and appropriately) confessed: “Which, if my manuscript were being copy-edited and proof-read by folks whose university-educated predecessors already exhibited horrifyingly weak grammar and punctuation, I would find alarming.”

However, Shriver’s concerns with the new policy weren’t limited to the effect it might have on the quality of her published work. Going further, she wisely observed:

Diversity, both the word and the concept, has crimped. It serves a strict, narrow agenda that has little or nothing to do with the productive dynamism of living and working alongside people with widely different upbringings and beliefs. Only particular and, if you will, privileged backgrounds count. Which is why Apple’s African-American diversity tsar, Denise Young Smith, got hammered last October after submitting, ‘There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.’ She hadn’t bowed to the newly shackled definition of the word, which has now been effectively removed from the language as a general-purpose noun.


She then added a rhetorical body blow to the whole notion of manufacturing diversity:

Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’être as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling. Good luck with that business model. Publishers may eschew standards, but readers will still have some.

Unfortunately for Shriver, diversity for the sake of diversity is incapable of handling rhetorical body blows. Wilting leftists who are easily wounded by words found her blasphemy of their god of diversity too much to handle. Penguin Random House dropped her as a judge for their literary competition.

I guess that for leftists, diversity doesn’t extend to differing points of view.


An earlier version of this article said that Shriver had been fired by Penguin Random House.


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