Publication has been halted for a provocative satire of children’s stories, “Bad Little Children’s Books”, which had been criticised by online commenters for poor taste and reinforcing racial and cultural stereotypes. Released in September by Abrams and written by Arthur C Gackley, a pen name, the book used old-fashioned illustrations to make jokes about alcoholism, sexual abuse and murder. It also included references to Indians transmitting smallpox and a Muslim girl carrying a gift with a bomb ticking inside.
Editor, blogger and former librarian, Kelly Jensen, wrote last week that Abrams and Gackley “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.” Abrams is not withdrawing copies already in print, but will no longer print new ones. On Sunday, Abrams and Gackley issued statements defending the book as parody, while acknowledging that it has been perceived otherwise.
“The artistic statement that I tried to make in the book is to offend and, by doing so, to shine the uncomfortable light of day on bigotry, prejudice, and hate; in effect, to refuse to let those pernicious and undermining sentiments stand,” Gackley wrote. “However, the book is clearly not being read by some in the way I had intended as satire and, more disturbingly, is being misread as the very act of hate and bigotry that the work was meant to expose, not promote. “For this reason, I have asked Abrams to cease publishing the book.” As of Monday afternoon, the book ranked No 531 on the Amazon.com best-seller list.