Amazon de-lists gay books

My friend Minal recently released a book through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It’s called “Leaving India: My Family’s Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents,” and, judging from what I’ve seen thus far, it’s doing quite well. At least, it seemed to be climbing Amazon’s sales rankings, before being yanked off earlier today. It appears as though all books with “gay and lesbian” content have been removed from the rankings. Furthermore, these books are no longer accessible by search. That means that if you search Amazon for “Leaving India,” you’ll no longer find it. Same thing goes for searching by the author’s name, Minal Hajratwala. Everything which had been tagged with “gay/lesbian” is now essentially invisible.

I could understand it, perhaps, if we were talking about hardcore pornography, but apparently that’s not the case. From what I’m told, straight romance novels are still ranked, while their relatively tame gay counterparts no longer are. And, Minal’s book, which has no explicit sexual content at all, apparently got hidden just because it contains her coming out story, and was thus tagged “gay/lesbian.” The book, which is about the Indian diaspora, contains exactly one girl/girl kiss in something like 500 pages. (And, as Minal points out, there wasn’t even tongue.)

If, like me, you’re outraged about this, there are a few things you can do. You can call Amazon customer service at 1-866-216-1072 and complain. Or, you can send them an email.

update: According to a new petition that Minal has started, it looks as though Amazon has re-listed many of the books removed early this weekend, including hers. They are still, however, missing from sales rankings. And, these books are no longer findable by way of other similar books. For instance, you cannot find Minal’s book from others on the subject of Indian history. Gayness, it seems, trumps everything.

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  1. Posted April 13, 2009 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Amazon is doing damage control. They say it was a glitch.

  2. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Why did they do this now? What motivated them to do it in the first place?

  3. Posted April 13, 2009 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    heh. #amazonfail is the number one trending topic on twitter. Someone made a big boo boo over there at Amazon. opps, I mean “glitch”

  4. West Cross
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    It’s being spun as a glitch. I imagine it is, I doubt they meant to remove all the gay/lesbian items but obviously someone was doing something with that category.

  5. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    It’s hard to think of a beneficial reason they’d do it on purpose, but one should never underestimate some people’s propensity for making stupid decisions.

  6. Posted April 13, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I got a “not working link” error message when I tried your link.

  7. Posted April 13, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I pulled up the title and it came up although not first on the list. Also without a book cover. Also for $77??? Is that the correct price? I also tried “gay” and got a list of differnet gay theme searches.

  8. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    “Also for $77???”

    Ahah. Gay tax.

  9. Fred
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    A gay tax – now that’s something that I could get behind.

  10. Meta
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    This guy claims to be the hacker responsible:

  11. Posted April 13, 2009 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, it’s looking like the work of a hacker. Still, it’s probably better to support your local book sellers, if there are still any where you are… Speaking of which, does anyone know what’s up what Shaman Drum?

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