It's also being discussed with the hashtag,
In the aftermath of the controversy regarding how slavery was depicted in the picture book "A Fine Dessert" in the last months of 2015, this story has been unfolding in the past few weeks.
You can read up about it at Betsy Bird's Fuse #8 blog on School Library Journal here, or in the Ron Charles Washington Post article here, or listen to the story on npr here.
The short version? The picture book had a "sanitized" portrayal of slavery, which at first had very little reaction, then a backlash with Scholastic defending the title on January 15, and then two days later announcing they were pulling the title from shelves.
As the Deborah Menkart article, Under Pressure, Scholastic Recalls Racist Children's Book, in Huffington Post Books explained,
The School Library Journal called the book "highly problematic" and Kirkus Reviews labeled it "an incomplete, even dishonest treatment of slavery." But neither of these critical reviews generated a public response from Scholastic.That January 18th article ran with this image of the book's front and back covers under the banners "Protest Victory: Recalled!"
It was not until a grassroots campaign by librarians, social justice organizations, #BlackLivesMatter activists, journalists, and others that Scholastic took the extraordinary step of recalling the book.
On January 22, the National Coalition Against Censorship chimed in, and their response to Scholastic pulling a book off shelves because it "may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn" was fascinating. The NCAC's statement included this:
While it is perfectly valid for critics to dispute a book’s historical accuracy and literary merit, the appropriate response is not to withdraw the volume and deprive readers of a chance to evaluate the book and the controversy for themselves. In the case of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, a book is gone that generated important discussions about how our nation creates, perceives, and perpetuates narratives about slavery and slave ownership.It's worth considering what are the lessons we can all learn going forward--for authors, illustrators, even for publishers? Because that "chilling effect" of future books avoiding potentially controversial topics (which would certainly include many representations of diversity) is a chilling outcome to consider.
Those who sought the removal of A Birthday Cake for George Washington and those who acceded to that request should recognize that other books they might consider valuable could be vulnerable to the same fate–censorship in the face of controversy. This outcome is likely to have a chilling effect, leading authors and illustrators to hesitate in taking on racially sensitive or politically controversial topics for fear of public outcry and reprisals. Pulling books out of circulation simply because they cause controversy is the wrong decision.
What are some of the lessons you see from this?
Illustrate and Write On,