Front and back cover of How to Excavate a Heart.

HarperCollins Adds ‘Christmas’ to Jewish Book Title Without Author’s Consent

Reason number one jillion why union-busting sucks

Last week, YA author Jake Maia Arlow announced on TikTok that the title of their romantic comedy about two Jewish lesbians, How To Excavate a Heart, was changed without their knowledge or permission to How To Excavate a Heart: A Christmas, Hanukkah, and Holiday Story. Arlow’s editor is participating in the HarperCollins strike, which has been going since November 10, which means that Arlow initially had no one to contact to find out who made the change.

Recommended Videos

“[This novel] is not a Christmas book,” Arlow explains in the video. “I described it a lot—and I still do—as a Christmas time book, but it stars two lesbian Jews, and on Christmas day … they celebrate ‘Jewmas’ and not Christmas.” Arlow goes on to explain that the novel isn’t even a Hanukkah book, saying that “Hanukkah is well over in the timeline of the book.”

“No one consulted me,” Arlow says. “No one asked me. That’s just the title now. So I’m guessing either a scab or a non-union employee simply changed the title of How to Excavate a Heart. I have no one to ask about this … I really hope this changes, because it fucking sucks and it’s not true.”

The title appears to have been changed for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes, making it easier to find when people Google the terms “Christmas,” “Hanukkah,” or “Holiday.” However, the change was still made without the author’s knowledge or consent, and in a way that misleads readers about the contents of the book.

Thankfully, Arlow’s agent was able to get the title change reversed, as they explain in an update. The situation should never have come to that, though.

There are so many ethical problems in this situation

Hopefully, HarperCollins will learn a few lessons from this fiasco.

First off, scab labor (if that’s what happened here) simply sucks. It’s not just underhanded and unethical—it’s demonstrably subpar. This is yet another reason why organizations should pay their employees reasonable wages. Treat your employees fairly, and you’ll be able to recruit and retain better employees!

Secondly, there’s the lack of author input. Authors are increasingly locked out of the publishing process, with little to no say over crucial decisions impacting their work. In this case, the problem is compounded by the fact that Arlow is Jewish. Changing major aspects of her work without consulting her contributes to the erasure and harm of Jewish communities, especially in a time of skyrocketing antisemitism. Members of Jewish communities need to have control over how our stories are told.

Finally, there’s the issue of ethical SEO content. Ethics don’t go out the window when you’re looking for clicks. Even if the person who changed the title had good intentions, their effort to cast a wider net resulted in drastically misrepresenting an author’s work (and, again, a Jewish story). This kind of situation is exactly how authors end up getting screwed over, and marginalized communities are pushed further into the margins.

There is a bright side to all this. Arlow has announced on her TikTok page that she’ll be donating a portion of her book sales to the HarperCollins strike fund. Her novel, How to Excavate a Heart, is now available at retailers and libraries.

(featured image: HarperCollins)


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Conservative Book Banners Are Redacting Entire Textbook Chapters in Texas Schools
A book with redacted sections
Read Article So What Happened With the Ending of ‘Iron Flame’?
Cover art for Rebecca Yarrow's "Iron Flame"
Read Article How Much of ‘Bridgerton’s Romantic Drama Is Historically Accurate?
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in Bridgerton season 3
Read Article Julia Quinn’s Many ‘Bridgerton’ Books Offer So Much More Regency Romance
The covers for Bridgerton books with Netflix tie-in covers, including The Duke & I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Read Article The 19 Best Standalone Fantasy Novels if You’re Looking For a Quick Adventure
Black mermaid looking up at the surface and swimming in front of whales. One of the covers for "The Deep." Image: Simon & Schuster
Related Content
Read Article Conservative Book Banners Are Redacting Entire Textbook Chapters in Texas Schools
A book with redacted sections
Read Article So What Happened With the Ending of ‘Iron Flame’?
Cover art for Rebecca Yarrow's "Iron Flame"
Read Article How Much of ‘Bridgerton’s Romantic Drama Is Historically Accurate?
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton in Bridgerton season 3
Read Article Julia Quinn’s Many ‘Bridgerton’ Books Offer So Much More Regency Romance
The covers for Bridgerton books with Netflix tie-in covers, including The Duke & I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Read Article The 19 Best Standalone Fantasy Novels if You’re Looking For a Quick Adventure
Black mermaid looking up at the surface and swimming in front of whales. One of the covers for "The Deep." Image: Simon & Schuster
Author
Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>