If you followed my work at all before 2020, then you know Berfrois and its sister publication, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, served as my literary home base for six years.
“No one else would give me five thousand words and then agree not to change a single comma,” Charles D’Ambrosio writes of Seattle’s weekly The Stranger in the preface to his collection Loitering. “While the pay wasn’t fancy, the freedom was absolute, and at that time in my life the liberty to think and write as I pleased mattered far more than money.” When I read that line a few years ago, I immediately thought of Berfrois, which was game to support my writing wherever it led me, during the time after my book sped came out, when I hadn’t climbed the next publishing rung on exactly the schedule I thought I should.
I learned of the founding editor’s admission of misconduct via public tweets in June 2020. Before that, I had not sensed anything untoward, or I wouldn’t have remained involved. I know the same is true of the worldwide constellation of other contributors and editors.
Having been slated to guest-edit a special QMT print issue, I immediately and publicly pulled my support of the project. Within twenty-four hours, the founding editor stepped down, ceded control of Berfrois to a new editor, and shuttered QMT indefinitely.
I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to lend my confidence and goodwill to someone who misused them. This situation was deeply painful for many people involved in the publications, not least of all the contributor who stepped forward about the editor’s behavior toward her.
The magazines have always been collaborations much bigger than any one editor. They represent the independently conceived and executed work of people in it for love and no money. I participated precisely because I and everyone else had free rein over the writing.
No fewer than three of my pieces in the publications deal directly with personal experiences of men abusing positions of power. They are my stories that are true and relevant to the systemic issues at play, and I have chosen not to unpublish and silence myself in the name of deplatforming someone else. I stand by the work, its association with the magazines, and the overall community even as I denounce the individual’s misconduct. If I thought other editors had participated in, enabled, or covered for abuse, it would be a different story.
As a former union organizer, I take solidarity seriously, knowing full well it’s a messy, multivocal process. Not everyone made my same choice, and that’s okay. I’m leaving this post as a record that I’m aware of and don’t condone what happened. I found it extremely upsetting and disheartening, and like many other editors and contributors who disavow harassment, I made the decision to leave my work up after careful consideration.
I hold out hope for the potential of change, growth, and restorative justice in general, and in this situation in particular, but the resolution will fall to the parties more directly involved.