LA Book Publisher Rare Bird Sued For Alleged Harm To Author Over Subway Shaming


UPDATE:  Rare Bird Books attorney David S. Eisen has responded on behalf of the company:

“The complaint filed against Rare Bird by Natasha Tynes is baseless for a host of reasons, chief among them: Rare Bird has never had any agreement of any kind with Ms. Tynes, nor has anyone from Rare Bird ever had any contact with her whatsoever, and Rare Bird’s statement about Ms. Tynes’ conduct was not defamatory.

Ms. Tynes’ publisher, California Coldblood, arranged for Rare Bird to distribute the book. As Rare Bird has stated previously, the company could not in good conscience be affiliated in any way with Ms. Tynes’ book, given her actions on social media.

As for the amount of damages Mr. Tynes claims to be seeking, it is worth noting that her book had pre-orders of less than 50 copies, and only a few hundred were scheduled to be printed. And it was not initially well-received.

It is ironic that, having taken advantage of her First Amendment rights with an ill-advised tweet, Ms. Tynes now seeks to stifle and punish use of those very same rights of a respected book publisher who legitimately expressed its opinions of her conduct, rather than take responsibility for her own actions. Ms. Tynes would have been better served to have simply let this episode disappear into the annals of history.

Rare Bird will, of course, expend all of the resources necessary to defeat this meritless litigation.”

EARLIER: Author Natasha Tynes has sued her former publisher, Los Angeles-based Rare Bird Books, for allegedly “permanently ruining” her reputation by refusing to distribute her book in the wake of a Twitter controversy.

Tynes tweeted a photo on May 10 of a Washington, DC transit worker eating on a train, a violation of the system’s rules.

“When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train. I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds. When I asked the employee about this, her response was, ‘worry about yourself.'”

There was an immediate backlash to the tweet, and Rare Bird responded by saying it would no longer distribute a Tynes novel, They Called Me Wyatt, set to be published on one of its imprints, California Coldblood Books.

The publisher decried the attempted shaming of the African American transit worker. “Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies,” the publishing company said in its statement.

The suit was filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The tweet has since been deleted, but Tynes said in her suit that many negative consequences have ensued, including her being placed on leave from her job at the World Bank in Washington, hospitalization for chest pain, death threats, high blood pressure, suicidal thoughts, a temporary move out of the country to Jordan, persecution of her family and nullifying the work she did on the book.

“Plaintiff would receive threats to her physical safety and the physical safety of her family via Facebook and Twitter,” the lawsuit says.

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