After two years, Dana Canedy, the first African-American woman to hold the role of Simon & Schuster’s main imprint publisher, resigned, the Company said on Tuesday.
An industry-wide effort to enhance diversity was the backdrop for the announcement. Lisa Lucas, the first Black publisher in Pantheon’s 80-year history, and Jamia Wilson, vice president and executive editor at Random House, have both been recruited and elevated to key editorial positions in the previous two years.
Ms. Canedy is leaving Simon & Schuster to write a book, a sequel to her 2008 memoir “A Diary for Jordan,” about her partner, First Sgt. Charles M. King, and the journal he kept for their son Jordan. In 2006, Mr. King was killed in Iraqi battle.
In July of 2020, Ms. Canedy was hired by Simon & Schuster as a new editor. The New York Times reporter and administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes worked together for almost two decades at The New York Times.
People applauded her hiring at Simon & Schuster because it signalled a shift in the publishing industry, which had long been dominated by white males. For Ms. Canedy, leaving was tough because of the greater importance of her role.
For some, you’re seen as the face of an entire industry when you are the “first” or “only” in your field. “And that’s something I’ve come to accept. Making a choice that I believed was correct made it more difficult.
Although Ms. Canedy’s time with the firm was limited, she made a big influence on it.
As Simon & Schuster vice president and executive editor, she hired Aminda Marqués González, the former executive editor of the Miami Herald, as well as prominent Black journalists and scholars, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, journalist and editor Errin Haines, and Rutgers University history professor Erica Armstrong Dunbar, who specialises in African American women’s history.
When she agreed to publish Mike Pence’s autobiography in April, Ms. Canedy outraged and alienated much of her own team and garnered condemnation from leftists, calling it “the authoritative book on one of the most momentous presidencies in American history.”
More than 200 workers, as well as tens of thousands of additional authors and publishing experts, signed a petition urging that the publisher terminate the agreement. “The public’s faith in our editorial process, and brazenly contradicted previously stated public assertions in favour of Black and other lives rendered vulnerable by systemic injustice,” the letter read, citing Simon & Schuster’s arrangement with Pence.
Both Ms. Canedy and Simon & Schuster’s CEO Jonathan Karp defended the company’s decision to publish Vice President Mike Pence’s book, arguing that it is an important account of Trump’s leadership and that publishers should buy books from all political perspectives. Canedy stated she would continue working on works by Pence, Robinson, and Dunbar, as well as other authors, as long as they were available.
Simon & Schuster is in the midst of a turbulent period. ViacomCBS, the parent company of Simon & Schuster, agreed to sell it to Penguin Random House in the autumn of 2020, but the agreement has been scrutinised by regulators and is now being contested in court by the Justice Department on antitrust grounds. If the Justice Department denies the purchase, Simon & Schuster’s future is in even greater doubt.
Mr. Karp, who was formerly publisher of Simon & Schuster before becoming CEO, would “return being publisher for the foreseeable future,” a representative for Simon & Schuster said.
Last year, “A Journal for Jordan” was made into a film by Denzel Washington, which was directed by the actor. After purchasing the rights to her next novel, Simon & Schuster announced that it will publish it in 2024. ‘A Journey With Jordan,’ as the book’s preliminary working title is, is a compilation of personal writings about coping with loss and finding new meaning in life.
She described it as a tremendous experience to have a film created on her life.
She replied, “I can’t even articulate how that feels.” Reenacting Arlington Cemetery’s monument, having actual soldiers turn there and cry, my kid learning about his father via the movie, and having me experience my love story all over again were just some of the things that happened.”
She says she is often quizzed on how she has dealt with her loss.
She confessed, “I feel driven to write that.