Pamela Paul and the Liberal White Supremacy of US Publishing

David Bowles
5 min readJan 29

In a grotesque, inaccurate, and harmful op-ed published in the January 26 issue of the New York Times, Pamela Paul (former editor of the New York Times Book Review and wealthy queermisic columnist) revisited the American Dirt scandal of 2020, concluding that Big Publishing was BROKEN by the Latino authors and their allies who objected to the book and to the system that allowed it to devour so many resources while excluding people from communities of color. Now all her literary friends are scared, she claims, of being attacked by a horde of “Twitter gunslingers” (i.e., brown folks with the temerity to speak up) if they write about experiences that aren’t their own.

It’s behind a pay wall, but you can listen to me read and comment on it (while the article is on-screen) on my YouTube channel.

Nearly all of what Pamela Paul writes is fallacious. In my video, I contest her points one-by-one, so I won’t do that here. For a review of the most egregious missteps in the column, I recommend checking out Max Read’s amusing and on-point editorial analysis. What I want to focus on is what Pamela Paul doesn’t say, and what that should tell you about her.

One point I will reiterate is that her dismissive attitude toward critics, who have every right to protest any book as surely as writers have every right to publish them, is just the sort of hand-wringing dog whistle that wealthy white liberals in the US use to counter attempts by progressive people of color to effect real change in our society.

[NOTE: It’s pretty clear that pinche Pamela is actually conservative, but in that wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing way that so many wealthy white liberals disguise their reactionary, regressive beliefs with the accoutrement of all left-wing blue bloods. See this profile in The New Yorker for a better idea of what I mean.]

From the heights of her ivory white upper-class east-coast tower, Pamela chose not to mention the grassroots hashtag and social justice movement known as #DignidadLiteraria. Co-founded by Myriam Gurba, Roberto Lovato and me, this effort was inspired by the outcry from Mexican American—and more broadly Latino—communities in a dozen different cities across the nation. (Myriam is mentioned in the most dismissive of language, and I’m just referred to as “another writer” while my op-ed for the NYT decrying the manufacture of bestsellers is derided as naive).

David Bowles

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.