The tech industry’s gender problem flares up once again.
Kate Losse has taken on the mission to, in her own words, “talk back publicly about [womens’s] deletion from tech discourse.”
The ex-Facebook employee has written extensively about the scourge of white male privilege in places like Palo Alto. Now it appears that a novel by a white male author bears a suspicous resemblance to her major work on the subject—The Boy Kings, a memoir about the early days of Zuckerberg’s empire.
The book is called The Circle, and it’s by Dave Eggers, of McSweeney’s and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius fame. It hasn’t been published yet. So, since we don’t have a galley copy, we can’t very easily go digging into Losse’s claim—that Eggers wantonly plagiarized her writing, or, in a grander sense, her life story. Losse has admitted that she doesn’t have a copy herself, but she’s certainly found some obvious similarities, as she outlined in an angry post on Medium:
This assumption is how, when I published THE BOY KINGS about working at Facebook for five years and the impact Facebook has on society, the media made the sexist assumption (without reading the book, because that would be giving a young woman author too much credit) that this book was not important, because how could a woman writing about technology be important? How could a woman doing anything be important? The assumption the media makes in these instances is that something is not important unless a familiar, male white face does it.
So, when Dave Eggers decided to rewrite my book as his own novel about a young woman working her way up through Facebook, the Wall Street Journal called it a treatment of “the essential issues of the day.” From all appearances, it is the same book, and I wrote it first (and I imagine mine is more authentic and better written, because I actually lived in this world and am also a good writer). The difference is that Eggers is a famous man and I am not.
Going by just the Amazon synopses, it’s clear Eggers might owe a hat tip to Losse’s work, at the very least. The Boy Kings is nonfiction about “a grad school refugee” who “joined Facebook as employee #51,” with “early days at the company characterized by a sense of camaraderie, promise, and ambition,” only to slowly recognize the industry’s dark side. The Circle, on the other hand, is fiction that concerns itself with “Mae Holland.” She’s “hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company,” and “feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime,” only to slowly recognize … well, you get the point.
Losse ended her Medium post with a sarcastic postscript: “P.S. BYE Dave Eggers. I see you, sitting there with your copying ass, copying me. Signed, ‘Mae Holland,’” though for her the offense goes far beyond simple intellectual theft. There’s also the wider matter of women being marginalized in any discussion of Silicon Valley.
The Circle releases on October 8. We’ll find out then if the similarities between Eggers’ novel and Losse’s life stop at the inside jacket.
Photo by Lannan Foundation/Flickr
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