They Called Me Wyatt
When Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland, her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt's parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder. Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.
Natasha Tynes had only recently sold her novel They Called Me Wyatt when she ran afoul of cancel culture for snitching on a rail worker who was breaking the rules by eating on a train. Look it up on Goodreads and—as of this writing—you’ll discover nearly 2,000 one-star ratings and over a thousand reviews—many, if not most of them, from people who give the book one star despite admitting they never read it, parroting the lie that “Natasha Tynes hates black women.” As a publisher myself, it’s personally distressing that a book’s reputation can be tanked by a horde of people who’ve never even seen the novel in question when so many authors struggle to generate even triple-digit reviews from people who’ve actually taken the time to sit down and read the book they’re reviewing. Tynes’ work suffered for her bad behavior—unjustly, unfairly, and unread. Almost two thousand negative reactions—when only a few hundred copies were even ordered, and when Tynes’ previous publisher stopped shipment on books after her tweet went viral. Tynes—again, a woman of color, mother of three, and immigrant to the United States with journalistic bylines under her belt in a variety of publications around the world—had her career ended before it began because the demons of outrage so decreed it. The problem is that They Called me Wyatt is a good book—a compelling, original thriller that, under other circumstances, would instead be praised for its unique and original voice, weaving together the stories and lives of people from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds for a one-of-a-kind espionage thriller. Tynes’ literary voice captures a woman caught between multiple worlds: first, as a teenage immigrant to the US, and then as an adult woman trapped in the body of a young boy after her murder results in reincarnation. Growing up with an identity not her own—and struggling with what her identity even is—Tynes’ protagonist goes on a journey fantastically reminiscent of so many immigrants to the United States who attempt to forge a new identity while remaining faithful to their own culture. All of this was lost, though, amidst the outrage. Readers were never given the opportunity to discover Tynes’ work on its own terms, to be judged on its own merits. Until now. I’ve decided to publish They Called Me Wyatt because I believe in second chances. Natasha Tynes has since apologized for her tweet and acknowledged her bad behavior. I respect that. I believe in forgiveness and growth. I believe that people can learn from their past mistakes and move beyond them. I do not believe in the one-and-done brutality of Twitter’s outrage police. I do not believe that one ignorant tweet should brand an individual forever and ruin their career. I do not believe an artist’s work should be judged on the basis of one act of stupidity on the part of its creator. That’s why, just like its protagonist, I’ve decided to reincarnate They Called me Wyatt as the first entry in the REBELLER literary imprint. REBELLER is about bucking the system—about seeing a good idea, being told it can’t be done, and doing it anyway. It’s about judging art on its merits and turning our backs on a Hollywood system and elitist mindset that would determine the worth—or worthlessness—of something based on arbitrary rules. It’s about remaining calm in the face of certain fury that will be leveled on us by those most insecure and apoplectic from our confidence in our convictions. It’s about something being dangerous and doing it anyway.
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