Author Sherry Jones has been called an “enemy of Islam” and some critics, including a University of Texas professor, have called her debut novel a work of soft-core pornography. Such backlash over The Jewel of Medina, which delves into cultural and intimate issues concerning the famed wife of the prophet Muhammad, are exactly why Jones’ recent public reading at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, Wash., included officers from the Spokane Police Department’s Dignitary Protection unit. According to Jones, officers stood in the bookstore scanning the room, while another was assigned to her personally.
“They looked very official in their suits and ties and their headsets,” she says. “And I guess there was other law enforcement in the room who were dressed more casually.”
Jones plans to read from her novel at Missoula’s Festival of the Book this weekend and also sit on a panel talking about controversy in publishing. Though Festival of the Book organizers haven’t finalized security for the event, Jones says she’s in contact with the FBI whenever she travels on book business.
“Being scared and being cautious are two different things,” she says. “I’m not afraid, but I’m cautious. I have a team from the FBI that I’m in communication with about all my travel times for my book. They are, to my knowledge, working with Missoula police to provide security for me at the
Lt. Scott Brodie of the Missoula Police Department confirmed the Montana All Threat Intelligence Center notified the department of Jones’ Nov. 2 book signing at Fact & Fiction, but was unaware of this weekend’s appearance. Brodie added that Missoula police have not been asked to provide assistance for either event, but that didn’t mean the FBI wasn’t involved. The Missoula FBI office did not return calls before the Indy went to press.
So far, Jones—who worked for 10 years as a reporter at the Missoulian before moving to Spokane in 2005—says she has not received any personal threats. But last month three men firebombed the home and office of Jones’ British publisher, Martin Rynja of Gibson Square. Since then, Gibson Square has sent out a press release saying that Jones postponed the book’s publication, though Jones claims she’s never had that discussion with Rynja and he won’t return her calls.
This incident follows another noteworthy publishing snag, in which her former U.S. publisher, Random House, dropped the book in fear of violent backlash. Beaufort Books, the same publishing company that released O.J. Simpson’s If I Did It, picked up The Jewel of Medina and released it earlier this month.