Negative Vs. Positive Attention: Worth Remembering Lani Sarem?

On August 17, 2017, book Twitter noticed something was odd. A white woman’s YA novel had displaced The Hate U Give from the New York Times bestseller fiction list, for young adult literature, Phil Stamper and several others investigated, and found out that Lani Sarem through her publishing company had bought her way onto the list by placing large orders of this book, which wasn’t even in stock at the stores. The NYT list eventually took Sarem off after the scandal went viral on Twitter. It was a bizarre event all in all, especially when a fanfic author was accused of being Sarem and had her own scandal. If the store didn’t have them in stock, they’d have to cancel the order.

It would have been one thing if the book was great, or at least better than The Hate U Give. Then we got a plagiarism example on learning that the book lifted art from another creator without compensating them. People read the book and realized that it was pretty terrible. One person even went and analyzed chapter by chapter. In short, everything about the book was bad. Its lead wasn’t even a teenager, which meant it wasn’t Young Adult literature.

Vanity Awards for Arrogance

People have noted that this sort of sales fixing has happened to get people on lists before. One company even made a business out of it. Usually, however, the goals would be smaller and to remain under the radar. Sarem’s company went like Icarus and tried to touch the sun. Icarus did fall, and Sarem did as well. She became a disgrace but refused to own that she had been caught. Instead, she tries to go on tours and talks.

This was two years ago. Since then, Sarem has sorta disappeared from the radar. Her Twitter mainly retweets from sources such as NSync, since she’s related to one of the band members. She seems to want us to forget what she said. I know I won’t forget. Neither will Google if the search results are any indication.

Remembering Crimes?

They say that when we don’t want to forget things, we don’t want negative history to repeat itself. 2017 was such a bizarre year that an infamous orca’s death from Blackfish went unnoticed. We also saw fascists run over people with cars, and probably the start of white supremacists attempting to impose their will.

At the same time, we want to remember who are the liars. Last year when I wrote about the first anniversary of the scandal, my article was cited in a Twitter feed when an Ithaca convention invited Lani Sarem to speak. Within a few days, she was disinvited, though I was uncomfortable when she was tagged in the thread to explain her actions.

We don’t have to give her more attention, but we can bring up the dates from time to time. Some entitled individuals think that if they skip the work and cheat, then they can dive on an artistic trend. Stories are more than trends, however. They are the embodiment of a person’s soul that gains life over time.

Lani Sarem has gone away, for now. But what she revealed about holes in established systems has stayed with us. We saw once, and we will keep watching, to support artists that want to put in the work. And we will let them rise.


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