Jumi Bello: Author’s essay about plagiarism retracted after allegations of additional plagiarism

·2-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Jumi Bello’s online essay detailing why she plagiarised material for her debut novel was removed after it was determined that the author committed additional plagiarism.

The essay, titled “I Plagiarised Parts of My Debut Novel. Here’s Why”, was a public explanation for why Bello’s book was cancelled by US publisher Riverhead Books earlier this year. The essay appeared on the website LitHub on 9 May and was removed a few hours after publication.

Bello’s novel The Leaving, about a young Black woman dealing with pregnancy, had appeared on several lists of the most-anticipated debuts of 2022, but in February the title was removed from online booksellers.

In the now-retracted essay, Bello highlighted how the demands of publishing affected her mental health, including her “keyed-up nerves” and inability to sleep. Bello also wrote of her desire to accurately describe pregnancy, which she had not personally experienced. “I tell myself I’m just borrowing and changing the language. I tell myself I will rewrite these parts later during the editorial phase. I will make this story mine again,” she wrote.

“Looking back on this moment, I ignored my instincts. I ignored the voice inside that said quietly, ‘This is wrong wrong wrong.’”

LitHub editor Johnny Diamond told the Associated Press that readers commenting on social media first noticed the similarities between the history of plagiarism contained in Bello’s essay and other histories of plagiarism available online.

This was additionally confirmed by a statement published to the LitHub website, which read: “Earlier this morning LitHub published a very personal essay by Jumi Bello about her experience writing a debut novel, her struggles with severe mental illness, the self-imposed pressures a young writer can feel to publish, and her own acts of plagiarism.

“Because of inconsistencies in the story and, crucially, a further incident of plagiarism in the published piece, we decided to pull the essay.”

Bello has yet to comment publicly about the essay’s retraction.

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