Thursday, November 29, 2018

MWA Withdraws Fairstein’s Award

Just two days after the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announced that author Linda Fairstein would be one of its two Grand Master Award recipients for 2018 (along with Martin Cruz Smith), the organization has chosen to rescind its award to Fairstein.

This follows complaints, expressed online by Edgar Award-winning novelist Attica Locke and others, that Fairstein—who, prior to her literary career, headed up the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office—had been instrumental in “the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five,” a group of teenage boys who were prosecuted in 1990 for allegedly attacking a woman jogger in New York City’s Central Park. The five boys were African American and Hispanic; the woman was white. Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after another man admitted to having committed the attack.

The MWA has issued the following statement:
On Tuesday, November 27, Mystery Writers of America announced the recipients of Grand Master, Raven & Ellery Queen Awards, special awards given out annually. Shortly afterwards, the MWA membership began to express concern over the inclusion of Linda Fairstein as a Grand Master, citing controversy in which she has been involved.

When the MWA Board made its selection, it was unaware of Ms. Fairstein’s role in the controversy.

After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused.

MWA will be reevaluating and significantly revising its procedures for selecting honorary awards in the future. We hope our members will all work with us to move forward from this extremely troubling event and continue to build a strong and inclusive organization.
To read more about the Central Park Five case and this Grand Master controversy, refer to this story in today’s New York Times.

4 comments:

Gary Phillips said...

I think Steph Cha's piece better encapsulates the matter than the NYT's does.
https://www.latimes.com/books/la-et-jc-mwa-linda-fairstein-20181127-story.html

Anonymous said...

Thought the award was based on writing? Past winners have been alcoholics, druggies, wrote porno under assumed names, mistreated women and more but received the award based on writing.

Gary Phillips said...

I couldn't agree more, those who have "mistreated women" (in a time of #Metoo or not) should have been called to task as well. Fairstein has doubled and tripled down on her stance that these young men "did something" to earn being railroaded into prison for years by the law. How then can you write about attaining justice as an ideal in fiction in that regard and be rewarded for such?

Jack Getze said...

I resigned my MWA membership yesterday. I am embarrassed to be a member. Linda Fairstein has done more for abused women than any government official in New York, and is a beacon for these legal issues throughout the world. She helped more women of color than Locke will if she sells ten million books.