Narcissism in the Literary World

In her essay titled “Experts in the Field” author Bonnie Nadzam opens up about her experience with an exploitative, abusive teacher and the impact it has had on her life. She writes:

I continue to witness their success and public adoration and the celebration of not only their work, but also of them personally. I see so many writers―male and female, including many I respect and look up to―pictured with these men on social media, these men who travel around the country―and even the world, now―teaching the rest of us how we should tell our stories. (Think about that for a moment). Indeed, I know they are among many of your favorite authors and teachers. Why would anyone believe me? Who am I? What do I matter, in comparison with them? Isn’t that assumption―about my relative lack of value, as a person, compared with them―what allowed their behavior to begin and persist in the first place?”


Read the entire essay on Tin House here

Sadly, Nadzam’s story is not uncommon. As a response to the powerful essay, several other writers shared their own experiences of abuse, harassment and manipulation by mentors, professors and other high-powered men in the literary world.

Ramona Ausubel writes:

Whether it’s physically or by strongly directing her work―the party in power says, Hey, you’re talented and I’d really like to open this door for you. Let’s get to work making you into something I can own. It’s difficult because mentors do open doors and they should, and teachers must offer their honest eyes and writers must revise their stories and we are all full of innocent mistakes. I want to commit and recommit to being a teacher who listens hard and invests fully but keeps my own hands off the doorknobs―those are opened by the writer’s work, whatever she wants that to be.”

Read the rest on Lithub here