Publisher Abrams Books has taken the satirical adult book “Bad Little Children’s Books” off sale at its author’s request, following a storm of complaints online saying the volume lent credence to Islamophobic, sexist and racist views.
“Bad Little Children’s Books” is a collection of parodies and offensive takes on the cloying covers emblematic of the 1950s classic “Little Golden Books.”
Some of the redesigns in the book include “Uncle Creepy,” which as the name indicates features a predatory relative doing a finger penis to amuse a toddler; “Happy Burkaday Timmy!” the tale of a girl in a hijab chasing a white kid with a ticking time bomb disguised as a present, and an illustration of an American Indian family humorously titled “The Anti-Vaccine Kid and the Gift of the Navajo Blanket Riddled With Smallpox.”
Others feature rockets from the Islamic State, children clearing the mess left behind by their alcoholic mom, and a kid with a “botched” face-lift eating an ice-cream on his hospital bed.
The collection is deliberatively provocative, irreverent and politically incorrect.
As they reveal in a statement, both publisher and author took great pains to make this crystal clear, labelling the book as “shamelessly offensive,” and clearly stating in the introduction that the parodies are meant to “stimulate queasiness, stir up uncomfortable gasps of incredulity, and in the end cause the reader to ask, ‘WTF?'”
In fact, the volume received positive reviews when it was first released last fall.
— Fenwick Bond Street (@FenwickBondSt) November 24, 2016
But some critics failed to recognize it for what it is: a work of social satire. One of them, Book Riot editor Kelly Jensen, launched a public vendetta against “Bad Little Children Books” pseudonymous author Arthur C Gackley in a lengthy post in which she excoriates Abrams for perpetuating harmful imagery and stereotyping.
“Abrams, along with Gackley, and the editorial team behind this – who are all listed right in the copyright page of the book – should be ashamed to publish and promote this kind of racist dreck. We don’t live in a world where humor like this is acceptable,” she wrote “This kind of “humor” is never acceptable. It’s deadly.”
The outcry was quickly followed by a Twitter storm of accusations about the book’s racism, followed demands for recalls and calls to boycott the publisher.
Bad Little Children's Books- it's not satire of racism if you reinforce the racist idea. You have to mock the racism, not the victims of it
— Jyl Shaffer (@jylshaffer) December 4, 2016
Everyone who loves their local indie: Please look for BAD LITTLE CHILDREN'S BOOKS. If you see it on the shelves, show them the burka page.
— Pie-di Pie-lig (@heidiheilig) December 3, 2016
— GirlsLikeUS ♀ (@FemalesLikeUs) December 3, 2016
Though Abrams initially refused to cave in to outrage, they eventually complied with the author’s wishes to cease publishing the volume. In a statement explaining his decision, Gackley deplored the current political climate in the US, saying it had made the “kind of dialogue I had hoped to promote through the publication of Bad Little Children’s Books” impossible.
Regretting that the book has been misread as the same act of hate and bigotry it was meant to expose, he added: “This act of censorship is dangerous on so many levels, as free speech, satire, and parody are tools to help make us a stronger society, not a more divided one.”
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (ALAOIF) had all expressed public support for Abrams’ decision to publish the book even if it offends some readers in a public statement, saying that “it is the right of authors to write as they choose and of individuals to decide for themselves what to read.”
“After all, anyone who doesn’t like the book doesn’t have to buy it” they concluded.