Mackenzi Lee, is a bestselling young adult author who gained significant popularity with her historical fiction series, Montague Siblings. The first novel in the series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue both was nominated and successful in winning numourous literary awards.
At the time of writing, Lee has published three novels, two collections and one novella, with the third instalment in Montague Siblings expected to release mid 2021.
Welcome to the “What’s the Deal With…” series; a place where we deep dive into the facts surrounding the drama, cancel culture and problematic issues of those within the book community.
These posts are to enlighten you about why certain names are being thrown around, discussed and/or bad-mouthed on the internet. They are not intended to shine hate on any one person, rather to lay out the facts and provide unbiased commentary on news in the book industry.
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And with that said – What’s the Deal With… Mackenzi Lee?
So how did Mackenzi Lee go from writing bestselling books to getting involved in author drama?
There have been more than a few situations that have made readers upset about both Lee’s books and her general behavior with the book community. I will try to keep this brief, so please make sure you check out the linked resources for full details on each situation.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky – The Pre-Order “Exclusive”
In early April 2019, Mackenzi Lee announced that the Montague Siblings novella, The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky would be getting released digitally and in hardcover.
This was something that upset a lot of fans. Why? Because this novella was originally a preorder incentive. And then when one fan spoke up about this disappointment, things escalated.
Lee responded less than positively, going as far as to make separate Instagram stories addressing this fan’s response.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue – Bisexuality Erasure
The main character in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Monty, is a loved character for many because of his partying antics, his boistourous humour and his open bisexuality.
…his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men…”Blurb for The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee
However, Monty’s sexuality became less certain – and to some readers, erased – following an AMA with the author on her Instagram account:
The erasure of Monty’s bisexuality, caused by the author’s response was raised by reader, Lori @ The Reading Fairy. Bisexuality erasure is a common phenomenon in pop culture, including literature. In response to the concern, Lee responded saying “I do not see it as erasure, rather increased inclusion.“
Make sure you visit Lori’s blog post for further details, including more of Lee’s email response. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any other sources about this issue (including screenshots or links to the original AMA), so take this one how you will.
Autographing Other Author’s Books
Almost exactly a year following The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky‘s announcement, Lee was called out for another situation. While working at the bookstore, King’s English, Lee chose to autograph books that were not hers. Allegedly, this was in response to customer requests:
More concerning than the action itself, was the fact that the authors’ whose books she chose to autograph did not know or give consent for this action.
This included a number of writer’s of color which received negative backlash because of their upset or choice to call out Lee’s actions.
The Madness Blooms – Misgendering & Deadnaming
The most recent, and possibly the most discussed, controversy surrounds Mackenzi Lee’s most recent standalone novel, The Madness Blooms.
This historical fiction novel’s main character is a trans male. However, in the original synopsis and early marketing, the book is described as if it is a sapphic or lesbian story, using she/her pronouns, as well as deadnaming and misgendering the character.
In addition, Lee stated that part of her inspiration was to break down the problematic trope “girl dresses as a boy in historical fiction”. Let us be clear – cross-dressing and trans rep is not the same thing.
Understandably, many readers questioned whether Mackenzi Lee – as a cisgender white author – was a person who should be attempting to explore and share such themes.
Trans author, Meredith Russo, supported Lee’s new book saying it was “…a perfectly good piece of trans rep…” However, this is one opinion within any and Russo has her own problematic history.
Since the primary controversy, The Madness Blooms has been postponed indefinitely. The synopsis has also been updated on all platforms, assumedly in response to uproar (for example see Book Depository product page).
I am not going to comment on the book itself, it is not my place, especially with the concerns that surround it. Instead make sure you check out the responses from trans readers such as Anniek, Eli, Caidyn, and Arwyn, both for and against Lee and this book in particular.
I am not saying that you should write off Mackenzi Lee as a bad person.
I am not telling you to cancel her books. What I am encouraging is that you look at the facts, the screenshots, and the situations presented to you and make your own decisions about whether Mackenzi Lee is an author you want to support.