SINGAPORE – A wave of statements have come from the local literary community which has distanced itself from independent bookstore Books, in fact, after its owner Kenny Leck was criticized for his past relationships with young female employees.
In a viral article by digital news site Rice Media published last Saturday (September 25), former employees of Mr Leck – including his ex-wife Renee Ting – claimed he had made romantic advances to young people. employees. Mr. Leck denied the allegations.
A group of 38 authors published by Math Paper Press, the editorial arm of BooksActually, released a statement Monday saying they were “angry and disheartened” to read reviews from former employees and did not tolerate non-consensual behavior or operating.
“We also recognize that our community of writers should do better and that limited resources should never be an excuse for unacceptable behavior,” they added.
The group includes well-known writers such as Alfian Sa’at, Cyril Wong, Felix Cheong and Ng Yi-Sheng, as well as six anonymous authors.
The authors welcomed the decision to transfer Mr. Leck’s ownership of the bookstore and publishing to his team of five employees.
âIf BooksActually wants to receive support from our writing environment, we need them to keep their promises to define and enforce better procedures and policies, including an anti-harassment policy.
“We hope that BooksActually emerges from this controversy and becomes a bookstore we can count on and love.”
Exactly how the transfer of ownership will unfold has not yet been established, although other publishers and literary groups have said they will suspend their ties with BooksActually until they are satisfied that Mr. Leck is no longer in charge.
Charity Sing Lit Station, a non-profit Singapore Unbound and the #BuySingLit movement, which Mr. Leck previously led as co-chair, have disowned any future involvement with BooksActually until changes are made.
Sing Lit Station said in a statement on Sunday that it would no longer work with BooksActually on its Jalan Besar writing residency and that it would reassess future collaborations based on “significant organizational changes that prioritize safety and security. well-being of their staff “.
He added that he is planning a series of discussions with stakeholders and community members to address industry concerns and gaps.
Local publisher Ethos Books said in a Facebook post Monday that it would stop retailing books through BooksActually until current staff have made it clear they have full management and ownership and demonstrate that systems and safeguards are in place to protect the well-being of staff.
Rice’s article interviewed several former employees of BooksActually, mostly women who were in their twenties when working there. They described working long hours without designated breaks and being paid little and sometimes late.
Ms. Ting, who had been in a relationship with Mr. Leck for six years, said she received no pay while they were dating, lived in the store, and had virtually no days off.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Mr Leck admitted his personal shortcomings before mid-2019 and apologized to those he had caused suffering. He said there were allegations and inferences that “remain totally false”, although he did not address them in detail.
On Sunday and Monday, many writers took to social media to express their solidarity with the women who spoke, as well as to regret not having been more up to date with what was going on at the bookstore.
Some, like Alfian, have started discussing the compensation of former employees from their accounting income.
Singapore Literature Prize winner poet Joshua Ip told the Straits Times that he did not receive any royalties for any of his Math Paper Press books. He refuses the royalties from all the publishers with whom he has published by personal choice.
Ip said in a Facebook post on Monday that he had put all future projects on hold with BooksActually on hold and would “await conversations with the literary community and with the new team” before taking action on his already printed work.
Responding to questions from the media, a spokesperson for the National Arts Council said, âThe NAC has no existing partnerships with BooksActually and Kenny Leck, nor are they involved in this year’s edition of Singapore. Writers Festival organized by Arts House Limited.
Books Last served as the official festival bookstore in 2018.
This article first appeared in The times of the straits. Permission required for reproduction.