Four Questions for...'Thug Kitchen' Publisher Mary Ann Naples
PW talked to Mary Ann Naples, senior v-p and publisher Rodale, about the controversial book, the backlash, and how the company has hounded the duo about getting started on a second project.
When the Thug Kitchen tumblr first came to my attention it was pretty early on in the blog’s existence - I follow a lot of vegan food tumblrs. I found the first few posts funny and amusing and am always happy to see champions of delicious vegan food on the internet. After awhile it felt annoyingly performative; it felt like the whole thing was in the service of this voice and persona and I stopped following.
I’m a big supporter of the Tumblr to book deal, and honestly feel like this could have been done in a way that matched book to audience, and not alienated POCs and resulted in such “backlash.”
The choice to keep the book title as Thug Kitchen and not pick something less ludicrous following the author reveal, was a poor one IMO. These white authors can playfully call their book and enterprise “Thug ___” with no consequences or dangers. This is an entertaining marketing strategy; it’s fresh and original when execute by white people. Never mind the long-standing implications of the word ‘thug.’ It would have gone a long way towards being tasteful and not blind to do a different title and just splash “based on the blog….” all over the copy.
There may have been consideration about the reaction following the author reveal; the potential for controversy could have been lucrative. I just hope someday those high up in trade publishing might at least consider the impact of putting a work into the world with a racialized title, which will live in the world long after a book’s marketing roll-out, and decide to go with an option that doesn’t contribute to erasing the dignity of already marginalized people.