A Westbrook bookstore is among those pulling titles by authors accused of sexual misconduct, including Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz.

Diaz is facing allegations that he had forcibly kissed a woman and verbally abused others. When those accusations began to circulate Friday, Quill Books & Beverage announced on social media that it would be removing any books by Diaz from its shelves. Co-owner Allison Krzanowski said the bookstore has removed books by other men who have faced similar accusations, like David Foster Wallace and Sherman Alexie.

“There are plenty of authors who aren’t sexually assaulting and sexually harassing people, so we make more space for them by removing the ones who are,” Krzanowski said in an interview Monday.

Krzanowski said most people responded positively to the announcement, but a few saw the move as censorship.

“Some people thanked us in person and commented that it can be really triggering for survivors of sexual assault to see those names out there,” Krzanowski said. “There have been some people who think we are banning books, and to that, I say it is our choice not to carry products. It’s not the same as a book being banned. We have a ‘safe space’ commitment, and that extends to our shelves.”

Quill opened in March near Blue Note Park in downtown Westbrook. The used bookstore also has a cafe and bar, and it hosts music and other events. The business has been mentioned in The Washington Post and other national news outlets as one of the stores no longer selling Diaz’s work.

The allegations first surfaced Friday at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, where writer Zinzi Clemmons confronted Diaz during a panel.

“As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature,” Clemmons later tweeted. “I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I’m far from the only one he’s done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore.”

Other female writers have since accused Diaz of aggressive behavior or misogynistic verbal abuse. Diaz withdrew from the writers’ festival and released a statement to the New York Times, alluding to a recent essay in the New Yorker where he revealed he had been raped as a child.

“I take responsibility for my past,” he said. “That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.”

The owners of two other bookstores in Greater Portland did not respond to requests for comment.

Diaz’s books include “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008. Quill has offered to exchange any Diaz books purchased at the store, and Krzanowski said she even reached out directly to someone she knew purchased one of his novels in her store. They also posted on social media to suggest alternatives to Diaz.

“In light of the news about Junot Diaz, here are some Latina authors we recommend (and have in stock): Cristina Garcia, Julia Alvarez, and Cassandra de Alba,” the bookstore posted on Facebook on Saturday.

Krzanowski and co-owner Matthew Irving have decided against stocking other writers or pulled them from the shelves for similar misconduct allegations. Among them are Jay Asher, the author of young-adult novel “Thirteen Reasons Why,” and novelist Sherman Alexie. Krzanowski said they have encouraged customers to alert them if they see a book by an abuser in the store and have concerns about it.

“We have limited space,” Krzanowski said. “We want to use the space to promote writers that we want to support.”

 

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