How are Nazi romance books still a thing in 2022?

Last weekend, Emily Everett shared a celebratory screenshot, on Twitter, of a publisher deal report after Putnam acquired her 2023 debut novel, Heartland. Once people started reading what the book was about, Everett limited who could respond to his thread, as people started to emphasize the soft language used in the book’s description over the actual subject of the book.

“…at Emily Everett, HEARTlaunched as in the vein of Kristin Hannah, a story set on American soil during World War II about the secret relationship between a young woman and a German POW assigned to work on the family farm in Iowa that brings each to wonder who they are, what they desire, and their complicity in a ruthless war, bringing to light the little-known history of POW camps across the vast American Midwest…”

While some celebrated this victory for Everett, many others were quick to notice that this foes-to-lovers novel presented another example of this romantic trope going overboard. At least this time the story isn’t about a Nazi officer and a female Jewish inmate falling in love, amirite?

As if this situation could get any worse, a publisher by the name of Putnam Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House) made an offer for this book. Several publishers wanted this book, despite the crude detail of a Nazi being the primary love interest.

POW camps in the United States

Another problem is that this subject is fascinating and little known, which means it is ripe for exploration in narrative form. In addition to the concentration camps where the United States held those of Japanese ancestry, the Army set up several POW camps (accommodating over 400,000 people) in the South and Midwest. There are some interesting real stories of Jewish GIs guarding German POWs in the United States. nazis.

The Nazis were not the only inhabitants of these camps. During the war, many people fleeing from Eastern Europe or first generation people from the Axis countries were arrested in Latin America (without their passports) by the United States and brought here to be detained . When there was insufficient evidence to legally detain them (such as evidence that they had served in the German military), the United States accused them of crossing the border illegally. There are plenty of other options for this kind of story that don’t seek to give a Nazi a redemption arc.

The role of the publisher who fought for the book

Something under-discussed is the publisher who acquired the book, even though her name is plain as day on the report: Tara Singh Carlson. Carlson’s relationship with Penguin Random House spans 12 years as a now experienced publisher. One of his first book acquisitions (if not still, to this day, the most publicized) was that of Delia Owens. Where the Crawdads sing. Carlson’s success in acquiring and promoting Owens’ novel helped cover up a real incident of colonial racism and murder (shared on camera by ABC in 1996 and featured again in 2010).

Although Owens wrote books documenting his time through southern Africa, Where the Crawdads sing was his first novel. With Carlson’s help, Owens became known for this book instead of her connection to the murder of a suspected poacher in Zambia. In Owens’ novel, Owens’ real life (allegedly), and Everrett’s story, redemption is granted to anyone who is defined as white at the time, despite murder and complicity in violence. Owens’ book (which has multiple connections to events in his life) became a New York Times and Amazon bestseller.

After being prominently featured in Reese Witherspoon’s book club, Owens landed a movie deal slated for release in 2023. Instead of learning from this mistake to make Owens even richer, Carlson continues to choose violence , as has book editor Amy Einhorn, who has acquired white women who make the most books. Ugly so what American dirt. Publishers like Einhorn and Carlson hold so much power and influence over the culture even though the average reader might not know their names. Publishers (and its footprints) are made up of individuals (like these publishers and their teams) who make decisions about who/what stories are told and how much they will fight for them versus other books they acquire.

(via Twitter, image: Marvel)

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