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Novel On Islam's Prophet Finds New Publisher

The controversy over The Jewel of Medina, Sherry Jones' historical novel about the Prophet Muhammad and his wife, Aisha, erupted when Random House announced its decision to cancel the book's publication after being advised that some Muslims might find the book offensive.

The publishing house cited concerns about the safety of its employees, the author and anyone else associated with the book, but Jones' agent, Natasha Kern, says that she and Jones were blindsided by the last-minute decision. They immediately began looking for a new publisher.

"Obviously we want to have the book read and judged fairly," says Kern.

The book is due to be published in a number of foreign countries, including those in the UK, and on Friday, Beaufort Books, a small, independent house, announced it will publish the book in this country — possibly as early as late October.

Beaufort President Eric Kampmann says his company is not afraid of controversy — last year it published If I Did It, by O.J. Simpson. He adds that The Jewel of Medina is a work of historical fiction and that it is respectful of Islam.

"It brings a reality to [Islam] that most people in the West — and particularly in America — are just not familiar with," says Kampmann. "So I think it's a ... boundary destroyer rather than barrier builder."

Kern says she and Jones are pleased with the deal with Beaufort, which gives them a larger share of the profits and includes publication of a second book. They also received full assurance that Beaufort will back them no matter what happens.

Kampmann says he doesn't believe publication of the book will lead to violence.

"This is America," he says. "There are lots of points of view, there are lots of world views in this country. If this should be published, it should be published in America."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.

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