‘Me too’ conversation comes to Riverdale

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With sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations coming to light in Hollywood, one publishing company is using the power of its medium to push the conversation forward with an anthology of essays featuring some victim’s own experiences.

The call for submissions went out Oct. 20, and within an hour, Riverdale Avenue Books received responses from so many people ready to share their stories, it was expected to publish those essays in a free e-book on Wednesday. 

“Me Too: Essays About How and Why This Happened, What it Means, and How to Make Sure it Never Happens Again” contains original essays from not only Riverdale residents, but also people from outside of the area as well as previously published pieces from outlets such as The Guardian. The company also is looking to distribute a hardcopy of the book, publisher Lori Perkins said.

“Me Too” was inspired by conversations with Perkins’ colleagues and fellow writer friends after the recent sexual assault and harassment allegations levied against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. 

When multiple actresses came forward with stories of Weinstein’s alleged abuse, a Twitter campaign — “MeToo” — emerged for people to share their stories. The hashtag was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano on Oct. 15, but actually dates back to activist Tarana Burke in 2007.

Perkins didn’t want to just sit around saying, “What can I do?” 

“I have a press,” she said. “I am woman. I can publish a book.”

Putting the book together wasn’t easy, and likely was unique to a boutique publishing company like what Perkins runs.

“Turning around and doing this book in a week is definitely something that a traditional publishing company just would not take on,” she said. “It’s too daunting for them, and it’s very, very hard for them to get their employees to work 24 hours.”

While Perkins credits Twitter and Facebook for breaking barriers in such a short time, she wants the “Me Too” book to continue educating people and serve as “the Pentagon Papers of feminism,” she said. 

“Now that we are able to get books published as quick as we are, the amount of editing is the same as it was for newspapers,” Perkins said. “There’s no reason why books should not come out as quickly when they need (to). So I’m hoping that we’re one of many publishing companies that will do this, and readers will have in-depth books about subjects much quicker than they used to.”

Although Riverdale Avenue Books is known for its LGBTQ and more risque titles, this isn’t the first time the company has published a book on short notice. 

In January, the company published “1984 in the 21st Century” after presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternative facts” during a news interview. 

Riverdale Avenue Books also is working on “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Watergate But Were Too Afraid to Ask,” to mark the 43rd anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

In the meantime, Perkins hopes the “Me Too” book will change the way people approach sexual harassment and assault issues. And if it does, she said Riverdale Avenue Books will be behind any state legislation.

“It’s a process of making sure that the spotlight continues to be shown on this issue, and that things change,” Perkins said. 

“Even though we’re in Riverdale, which is a small neighborhood in New York City, we’re going to be part of this debate, and I think that it’s really important.”

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