Las Vegas-based author accused of plagiarizing essay about plagiarism

A UNLV sign at the intersection of Harmon Avenue and Swenson Street in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Re ...

A Las Vegas-based author with ties to a UNLV writing program penned an essay earlier this week about plagiarizing her debut novel, only for more plagiarism to be uncovered in the essay.

In a personal essay for the website Literary Hub, writer Jumi Bello said her debut novel was set to publish this summer when she came clean to her publisher about plagiarizing parts of the book.

“I didn’t want a version of the book to come out that wasn’t true to my own work even if it meant losing the book contract,” Bello wrote, according to a cached version of the essay, which has since been deleted. “The publisher canceled the book, only doing what was best to ensure they didn’t publish plagiarized material.”

Hours after Bello’s essay was published by Literary Hub, it was retracted, according to a statement posted by the website Monday.

“Earlier this morning Lit Hub 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,” the website said in its statement. “Because of inconsistencies in the story and, crucially, a further incident of plagiarism in the published piece, we decided to pull the essay.”

An editor with Lit Hub told The Associated Press that the plagiarism concerned passages in the essay about the history of plagiarism.

Bello started as a doctoral candidate in nonfiction at UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute in the fall of 2021, according to her website. Before coming to Las Vegas, she taught high school in Taiwan and mainland China before studying fiction at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

The Black Mountain Institute did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday about the matter. As of Tuesday afternoon, Bello was not listed as a fellow on the organization’s website. UNLV’s website listed her as a graduate assistant in the English department.

A spokeswoman at UNLV said Tuesday she did not immediately have a comment about Bello’s essay.

Bello described her struggles with mental health throughout the essay, discussing her plans to attend a doctoral program in Las Vegas, where she would continue writing about mental illness.

The Black Mountain Institute is a literary arts center at UNLV that gives $9,000 a year to its doctoral fellows for the first three years of their studies, according to its website.

Faylita Hicks, who is listed as a current fellow, wrote on Twitter on Monday that Bello should not be publicly condemned for holding herself accountable for the plagiarism.

“She attempted to take full responsibility in a very public way,” Hicks wrote. “That is all we can ask of people who plagiarize–accountability.”

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 480-243-4086 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lolonghi on Twitter.