Former Hart Fellow Seyward Darby Publishes First Book

Sisters in Hate, a new book by Duke alumna and former Hart Fellow Seyward Darby (Trinity ’07, HFP ’07-‘08), examines the role of white women in right-wing extremism. Often ignored in history and in modern media, these women have been some of the driving engines behind virulent hate movements and have helped propel white supremacy to the fore of the national political discourse. Darby’s book has been called “a disturbing and informative must-read,” so Adam Beyer, our former Associate in Research for the Hart Leadership Program, interviewed Darby to find out more about this timely book and the research that went into it.

Darby, the editor-in-chief at The Atavist Magazine, has experience writing and editing long-form texts, but Sisters in Hate is her first book. She felt compelled to use her knowledge, skills, and platform to make a difference after the 2016 election. “I definitely brought the lessons that I learned in international work, and especially studying human rights in grad school” to the process of writing Sisters in Hate, Darby said. She was drawn to write the book out of a desire to understand how to “recognize where and how people become vulnerable to this ideology” and the processes of radicalization and deradicalization.

Sisters in Hate follows the stories of three women who either currently are, or were at one point involved in the far-right white supremacy movement: Corinna, Ayla, and Lana. Darby learned about them through firsthand conversations and interviews as well as by following their public online presence. All of her subjects were born in 1979 and all radicalized to the far-right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Corinna turned to white supremacy while grieving a personal loss, Ayla became a white supremacist after years of publicly identifying as a progressive feminist, and Lana runs a popular far-right media company. Corinna eventually left the movement and became an FBI informant, but the other women continue to be active in white supremacist spaces. Darby was surprised to find that part of what her subjects found appealing about white supremacy is that “it allows them to be part of a community.”

Darby was honest from the start with her subjects about her own beliefs, which directly oppose white supremacy. Nonetheless, they were willing to talk to her, until an early excerpt from what became Sisters in Hate was published. After this, some of her subjects cut off contact, which Darby in part attributes to the far-right’s distrust of mainstream media. Darby was able to continue her research because her subjects “are very prolific online,” and in her view “it’s like being a historian and going into an archive for boxes and going through people’s letters and diaries, except you’re doing it on the Wayback Machine.”

Since its publication, Sisters in Hate has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, including a starred review from Kirkus and a feature on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. However, there has been some pushback, and not just from white supremacists. Darby has received some criticism for giving these women a platform, but she argues that “one of the ways we got ourselves here as a country was by ignoring” the issue of white supremacy. “I think we have to kind of look at it straight on to have any hope of combating it and preventing radicalization,” Darby said.

Sisters in Hate is available wherever books are sold.