Romance Writers of America Suspends Novelist Courtney Milan for Calling Rival’s Work ‘Racist Mess’

#IStandWithCourtney becomes trending topic after author who called out racism in the industry is disciplined by writers’ group

Last Updated: December 24, 2019 @ 2:00 PM

Romance novelist Courtney Milan, a former board member of the Romance Writers of America and longtime advocate for tackling racism in the genre and the industry, was suspended by the group this month following complaints by fellow authors that she violated the group’s code of ethics with her negative online comments about other writers and their work.

The group acted after novelists Suzan Tisdale and Kathryn Lynn Davis filed formal complaints about some of Milan’s Twitter comments about their past novels, including one referring to Davis’ 1999 romance novel “Somewhere Lies the Moon” as a “f—ing racist mess.”

The RWA ethics committee’s unanimous decision to suspend Milan, a Chinese American author, sparked an outcry from fellow members of the RWA, with multiple people resigning from the group and threatening to return their RITA Awards.

#IStandWithCourtney became a trending topic on Twitter Tuesday morning after word of the RWA’s decision, first submitted on Dec. 11, was made public Monday.

“Allowing racists to weaponize RWA’s Code of Ethics against someone calling out that racism goes against everything a code of ethics stands for, and this result is appallingly and profoundly wrongheaded,” writer Alyssa Day wrote.

“Speaking out against racism is not an ethics violation,” romance writer Racheline Maltese wrote.

“I have no words to describe how I feel. OK, betrayed and sick. Those are two words,” author and former RWA board member Tessa Dare wrote, adding, “I was also on the Board of Directors when we voted to approve the ‘invidious discrimination’ language in the Code of Ethics, and a guaran-damn-tee that I did not vote for it as a byword for ‘be nice on twitter or get kicked out of RWA.'”

Milan defended her actions on her Twitter feed and questioned the RWA’s decision. “I don’t think you can call yourself an advocate for writers if you do not defend the right of authors to criticize –and criticize in sharp terms — publisher’s business practices,” she wrote, adding, “One of the things that we grappled with when I was on the Board — endlessly, I thought, fruitlessly — was what to do about the fact that we had racist members who were just going to racist all over the place.”

A rep for the RWA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified romance writer Courtney Milan.

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