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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Couple Behind Controversial Thug Kitchen Cancels Bay Area Readings Due to Protest Threats

Posted By on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 4:29 PM

click to enlarge thug_kitchen.jpg
If you're plugged into food culture at all on social media, you've likely heard about the controversy surrounding Thug Kitchen. The authors of the new, expletive-ridden vegan cookbook, who also write a blog of the same name, came out from behind their anonymity last month to reveal themselves as a white couple from Hollywood.

The resulting uproar around their racial identity — and whether calling their book "thug kitchen" is racist or cultural appropriation — has led to protests all over the country.

Including planned protests here for events that were scheduled on Wednesday in Diesel Books in Oakland and Friday at Omnivore Books in Noe Valley. Events that the couple has since canceled.

Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway put out a short statement to their Bay Area fans on their website today:
We love you and we think you’re amazing (Michelle’s from there!). We were looking forward to meeting all of you and having a real fucking conversation. But there are some who are looking to disrupt the event and create problems for these great local, small businesses—who were kind enough to partner with us on the launch—so we’re holding off on our visit for now. Until we get our asses back up there, we’ll see you guys at our other stops!
The group looking to "disrupt" the Bay Area readings call themselves ethical vegans who believed that "neither these authors nor this store should benefit or profit from this hurtful work."

Booksellers were definitely in the middle of all of it, as they are generally pro-free speech, but don't necessarily want to draw the kind of negative attention that hosting the couple for a reading would bring upon the store. Diesel Books touched on this uneasiness in a long statement on its Facebook page urging Oakland residents to come out and join the conversation about the book before the event was canceled.
Some of you may be aware of the recent controversy surrounding the Thug Kitchen blog and cookbook. The previously anonymous L.A. duo who created Thug Kitchen were booked for an event at our store well in advance of their surprise revelation, and believe us, we were surprised too. (Well, truth be told, some more than others.) In the wake of this, we've received via email & Facebook interesting comments and criticisms. (Some of the most relevant links include: (1) http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/blogs/editor/2014/09/thug-kitchen-author-real-names-revealed.html, http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/09/thug_kitchen_a_recipe_in_blackface.html, & http://jezebel.com/meet-the-white-people-behind-thug-kitchen-1640479775 — special thanks to Hunter Leight). While we intend to go ahead and host the event, we’re linking to the criticism to highlight the fact we're not deaf to the arguments being made both for and against Thug Kitchen. There are definitely times and places for defiant stances to be made, but in this instance we think the occasion for dialogue is perhaps far more helpful.

DIESEL, A Bookstore believes in freedom of expression, and the authors of this cookbook have chosen their method of expression. Does the fact of their being white change their message? Is their language insultingly appropriated or just language many people use? Are you offended or do you think the humor is okay? We don't have the final answer to these questions, though lately we've been talking about them with one another plenty. We invite you to come and have your say. We are your community bookstore, and we want you to be able to share your views. Perhaps what would have been a publication party has now changed to a conversation of a different sort. That’s up to you. What hasn’t changed is our willingness to connect authors and communities, to facilitate the dialogue between them, and to be a space that promotes free and healthy discussion. We trust & know from experience Oakland has plenty to say about all this.

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About The Author

Anna Roth

Anna Roth

Bio:
Anna Roth is SF Weekly's former Food & Drink Editor and author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food From San Diego to the Canadian Border.

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