A company that distributes books has responded to a lawsuit filed by a woman who gained infamy by trying to call out a public transit worker for eating on the subway in Washington, D.C. Rare Bird Books argued that no one was going to read Natasha Tynes’ debut novel even before the writer social media-shamed a Black woman she didn’t know riding on the city’s Metro.
In fact, Rare Bird said, the company never even had any type of formal agreement in place with her, a fact it said rendered Tynes’ lawsuit “meritless” and “baseless.” However, even if there was an agreement, a poor review hinted that the book would be a failure.
It was the latest response from Rare Bird, which was sued last week by Tynes, a Jordanian American who claimed she was the victim of “racial torment.” Rare Bird went on to say in a statement released via Twitter that Tynes would have been better off letting “this episode disappear into the annals of history” than prolonging her embarrassment with a “baseless” lawsuit.
Read Rare Bird’s complete statement below.
As proof that Tynes’ book was doomed for failure, Rare Bird linked to a review of “They Called Me Wyatt,” which Publisher’s Weekly called a “limp debut.” The review went on to say that readers expecting basic requisites for good reading, such as character development, “will be disappointed.”
Rare Bird, which was being sued for $13 million for allegedly subjecting “an immigrant woman of color to this racial torment for their own personal profit,” also said fewer than 50 copies of the book has been pre-ordered, another indication of a lack of interest from readers.
Tynes tweeted a picture of a Black woman D.C. Metro worker eating on the train during her commute to work on May 10. Eating has long been banned on the transit system, so Tynes argued it was perfectly reasonable of her to go ahead and tag the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, the worker’s employer. She faced massive backlash for trying to get the Black woman in trouble and outraged social media users began to quickly call for Tynes’ publisher, Rare Bird Books, to drop her book, which it did the same day of her infamous tweet.
The disgraced author went on to say that following the fallout from her tweet, she had to be hospitalized for having an “acute anxiety reaction,” which she claimed led to high blood pressure, chest pain, hyperventilation and suicidal thoughts. She also went on to say that she even had to flee back to Jordan temporarily because “fearing that her one-year-old baby, her seven-year-old twins, and her husband would be the subject of violence, reprisals and harassment at the hands of a mob incited by Rare Bird if she remained in the United States.”
In addition to being dropped from her book, Tynes was put on administrative leave by her employer, World Bank Group, where she worked as a communications officer.
It’s safe to say that her tweet did not have the intended effect Tynes was hoping for.
She wrote in the now-deleted tweet, “When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train. I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds. When I asked the employee about this her response was ‘worry about yourself.’ @unsuckdcmetro.”
It was later learned that metro workers have 20 minutes to eat lunch to make it to their access point on time to see that public transportation operates on schedule. The metro worker was not disciplined but did express feeling “hurt and embarrassed” about being put on blast.
A union official for WMATA employees defended the unidentified employee.
According to the WMATA’ union, the employee was well within her rights to eat on board one of its trains. The Associated Press reported that Barry Hobson, the chief of staff for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said an email was sent one week before Tynes’ tweet “from the Metro Transit police chief telling officers to stop writing tickets for fare evasion, eating, drinking, spitting and playing music without headphones until further notice.”
Therefore, Hobson said in a statement, “our operator clearly was doing no wrong.”
WMATA had yet to update its web page listing the “rules and manners” for riding on the Metro. As of Monday afternoon, the page said in part that no one was allowed to “Eat, drink, smoke or litter on Metro vehicles or in stations. Metro Transit Police issue citations or make arrests to enforce the law.”
“Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies,” Rare Bird’s initial statement on May 10 said in part. “We think this is unacceptable and have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to jeopardize a person’s safety and employment in this way.”