Book parody dropped over 'racism' storm | Were spoofs 'hateful' – or critics too keen for a ban?

Book parody dropped over 'racism' storm

Were spoofs 'hateful' – or critics too keen for a ban?

They are the biggest phenomenon in publishing at the moment. But now one book parodying vintage children’s texts has been withdrawn following a fierce social media backlash.

Bad Little Children's Books has been branded racist for its depictions of Native Americans and Muslims 

And now the illustrator behind it, Arthur C. Gackley, has withdrawn the title saying: ‘The book is clearly not being read by some in the way I had intended—as satire—and, more disturbingly, is being misread as the very act of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.’

BurkadayImages in the book, marketed as a collection of 120 ‘edgy, politically incorrect parodies,  include a girl wearing a burka giving a ticking present to a little boy for a book called Happy Burkaday, Timmy by Ben Laden.

One twitter user, Nick Hanover, said: ‘We need to stop letting entities like @ABRAMSbooks claim satire whenever they want to publish hateful trash.’

Book Riot blogger Kelly Jensen led the charge. Of the Burkaday book she said: ‘In a culture which is hateful and violent against anyone outside of the Christian norm, particularly Muslims, who thought this was even an okay image to present in a book, humorous or not? This is the sort of harmful imagery and stereotyping that literally kills lives — and it’s not the lives of little white boys who are dying. It’s the lives of those, like the girl in the burka, who are impacted by disgusting "humor" like this. We don’t live in a world where humor like this is acceptable. This kind of "humor" is never acceptable. It’s deadly.’

Withdrawing the book from sale in the UK and the US, both the author and publisher, Abrams, took aim at the commentators it accused of being involved in a witch-hunt.

In a statement, Abrams said: ‘In the last few days some commentators on social media and those who follow them have taken elements of the book out of context, failing to recognise it as an artistic work of social satire and comic parody. They argue that it lends credence to the hateful views that the author’s work is clearly meant to mock, demean, expose, and subvert.

‘Bad Little Children’s Books is a work of parody and satire and, as such, it is intentionally, openly, and provocatively offensive… We stand fully behind freedom of speech and artistic expression, and fully support the First Amendment. We have been disheartened by calls to censor the book and to stifle the author’s right to express his artistic vision by people we would expect to promote those basic fundamental rights and freedoms.

‘However, faced with the misperceived message of the book, we are respecting the author’s request.’

The author said his work was ‘unabashedly un-PC, rude, tasteless, inappropriate’ and said he was working in the same vein as ‘MAD Magazine, Richard Pryor, The Onion, Amy Schumer, The Simpsons, Dave Chapelle, National Lampoon, and South Park’.

They added:  ‘While reviews of Bad Little Children’s Books have been overwhelmingly positive, I understand that one can become personally offended by any of the parodies (heck, even I find them offensive). 

‘The book is an "equal opportunity offender," if you will. This was my intention and, as a longtime supporter of liberal politics throughout my more than 40-year career as an illustrator, writer, and humorist, the fictitious character of Gackley couldn’t be more different than me. 

‘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. That’s been part of my life’s work and what I hoped to achieve with this book.

‘Some people have asked Abrams to ban the book and issue an apology for publishing it in the first place. I suspect that they’ve neither seen nor read the satirical work in its entirety or, as likely, that the current political climate in the United States has made the kind of dialogue I had hoped to promote through the publication of Bad Little Children’s Books impossible. 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.’

Comic reimaginings of the Ladybird Books continue to be successful, with a Boxing Day title release  last Thursday, and modern parodies of the Famous Five books such as  Five on Brexit Island  were released last month, with the blessing of the Enid Blyton estate

Published: 6 Dec 2016

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