In light of the recent controversy surrounding the publication of Hesh Kestin’s new novel The Siege of Tel Aviv, I would like to issue a statement. I am the co-founder and former publisher of Dzanc Books. In 2006, I acquired Hesh's novel The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats, which went on to win the gold medal at the Independent Publishers Award. I subsequently read and acquired Hesh's new novel.
The Siege of Tel Aviv, with blurbs from Stephen King and others, addresses the tragic situation in the Middle East. It is a book that weds absurdism with satire with social commentary. It is not in any way meant to be read literally as an Islamophobic text. That the material presents itself as problematic in this regard troubles me deeply. I hoped readers would understand the intent of the novel, the over-the-top absurdist narrative, drawing attention to—not championing—the ridiculous ways in which we, as a universal community, see one another and fail in our interactions. That the novel has been viewed as otherwise is our failing.
If I might digress a moment. Personally, my wife Mary and I have spent the last several years fighting Donald Trump's immigration policies. We have sponsored Muslim families, have personally bought two houses in which we have brought Muslim families to America to live. We have worked tirelessly and have given a small fortune to support the Muslim cause. It hurts me a great deal to see the way Hesh's novel has been received.
If an error has been committed, it is not in our intent, but in the failure to consider how readers might perceive the novel. It was my own blindness, and reading the novel as a parody, which has me so troubled now. I am distraught that readers would think ill of Dzanc, given our thirteen years of publishing underrepresented authors, our work in the community and in the schools.
If publishing this novel is an error, then we will listen to the complaints and pull it from the market. I am opposed to censorship, but we are living in fraught times and listening to the public is important. I truly thought readers would grasp the literary objective of the novel. The novel was acquired three years ago, before Trump's election and the dynamic shift in American politics. I apologize for any mistakes that were made and hope there might be a reconciliation with the understanding that Dzanc is all about providing the public with worthy literature. Sometimes those works create controversy. We have never faced a situation like this and are willing to learn from this and move forward. We thank you for your input and understanding.
Steve Gillis, co-founder