Rohinton Mistry Cancels U.S. Book Tour Due to Racial Profiling

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This past weekend, Rohinton Mistry, one of Canada's most celebrated authors, announced that he was canceling the remainder of his U.S. book tour due to what he characterized as racial profiling in American airports. "He was singled out at airports because of the color of his skin," said Paul Bogaards, director of publicity for Knopf, Mistry's publisher. "This is the way of the world now, and, after a time, Rohinton Mistry became uncomfortable."

Mistry's latest book, Family Matters, which details the struggles of a father and his children in modern Bombay, was a Booker Prize nominee and a Book Sense September/October 2002 76 pick. Mistry is also the author of A Fine Balance, which was a March/April 2000 Book Sense 76 pick.

Mistry's troubles with American airport security began in early October, when he was conducting the first leg of his U.S. book tour promoting the novel, said Bogaards. Traveling with his wife, Mistry found that "he wasn't being stopped just once [at airports], he was being stopped two or three times," Bogaards told BTW. "This happened repeatedly. So, he decided to pull back. We support him fully in his decision."

Over the weekend, the Indian-born Mistry announced the cancellation of scheduled tour stops in Chicago; Boston; Iowa City, Iowa; Madison, Wisconsin; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; and Seattle. "What's important to note is the support that Mistry has received from [U.S.] booksellers," Bogaards said.

That's certainly true of at least two independent booksellers who had scheduled events with Mistry in November. The author was due to appear at Iowa City's Prairie Lights on November 5, said Prairie Lights owner James Harris. Harris said he understands and supports Mistry's decision to cancel his book tour. "I think it's tragic that people are humiliated in this way," he told BTW. "I'm not surprised -- I do think people are pulled out [in airports]. I don't blame him."

Harris added that, though customers have expressed disappointment at the cancellation, he has not heard any negative comments regarding the author's decision.

Said Peter Aaron, owner of The Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, "We're very disappointed he won't be here, but we fully understand his reasons." Mistry was schedule to appear at Elliott Bay on Monday, November 11.

Bogaards stressed to BTW that Mistry is "not trying to make an issue of this, he just expressed to us his frustration." He noted it is unlikely that the author will set foot in a U.S. airport anytime soon. --David Grogan