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An illustrated novel on a suicide bomber was withdrawn after intense backlash from writers
By Barfi Culture Team
26th November 2018

An American publisher has withdrawn a controversial book after facing a backlash on social media and a highly critical open letter from writers.

Abrams, which specialises in illustrated books, said it was withdrawing the graphic novel, A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library, which was to be published in May 2019.

The controversy was sparked last month when the company tweeted a "sneak peak" of the upcoming title.

That did not go down well.

In response, author Katherine Latke tweeted: "I don't even understand the process by which this book came to be, except a profound dislike and neglect of Muslim readers, and especially of Muslim children."

"This is deeply misguided and harmful," wrote Kiersten White. "If the whole point is that reading creates empathy, why write a book that reinforces actively destructive stereotypes? Besides which, in America, the only people who try to murder children in libraries are white men."

The book featured a young (south Asian looking) man entering a library wearing an explosive vest hidden under his jacket. He then becomes "completely captivated" by the books others are reading. The boy can’t help but question his reasoning for being there, said the book's blurb.

Soon after, a group called the Asian Writers Alliance posted an open letter saying its premise was "steeped in Islamophobia and profound ignorance".

It added: "Further, though the text refers to the characters as boys, the illustrations of brown-skinned individuals with receding hairlines and dark circles under their squinting, villainous eyes are dehumanizing and do not seem in any way child-like."

"Is this how Abrams believes Muslim/Middle Eastern/Arab/Pakistani children should see themselves? Or, adults for that matter? Is this the mirror you hold up to them? Is this the window that you think creates empathy?"

The open letter was quickly signed by over a thousand people, many of them writers themselves.

Withdrawn


Over the weekend Abrams gave in to public criticism. A statement by the company said:

"While the intention of the book was to help broaden a discussion about the power of literature to change lives for the better, we recognize the harm and offense felt by many at a time when stereotypes breed division, rather than discourse. Therefore, together with the book's creators, we have chosen to withdraw its release."

In response, a statement by the Asian Author Alliance last night said it was pleased with the decision but more needed to be done.

"We still believe Abrams has far to go in addressing the internal processes that allowed such a book to be greenlit."

Author Samira Ahmed also weighed in on Twitter:









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