A parent in Marietta, Georgia, has lodged a complaint with his local school board about the inclusion of Hena Khan’s picture book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors (Chronicle, 2012) at his daughter’s Scholastic Book Fair on October 17. Thomas Prisock claims that the book is “an indoctrination of Muslim culture,” according to the The Marietta Daily Journal (MDJ).
Prisock’s daughter selected the colorful title from 3,000 available books at the fair, which was hosted by children’s publisher Scholastic and sponsored by the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at Dowell Elementary School. His wife purchased the book for about $5. Prisock told Fox News that he later returned to the fair and noticed a lack of representation from other religions.
“I know they are trying to do a good thing, this just struck me as wrong,” says Prisock in MDJ’s report. “That culture there doesn’t seem to have anything good coming out of it.”
However, Abi Nesmith, PTA president and parent of a fifth grader, counters that the school’s population—which includes Christians, Muslims, and Jews—was well reflected in the book fair’s diversity of offerings, according to MDJ’s report.
Golden Domes is not a stranger to controversy. Earlier this year, it was the focal point of a Twitter battle between middle-grade author Kate Messner and an unknown Twitter user. Messner had recommended the book on her social media account as a positive portrayal of Islam for young readers, when the user responded with inflammatory comments.
Author Khan tells School Library Journal that response for her book has been otherwise overwhelmingly positive, both before and after this event. “Booksellers, teachers, parents, media specialists—Muslims and non-Muslims—value my book and want to see more like it.”
“I found it very disheartening to hear that he returned the book after his own daughter selected it and his wife bought it,” Khan says. “Sadly, this incident is representative of the many actions that occur that are fueled by misconceptions, stereotypes, and ignorance. We have to educate our children and show them why we need to embrace diversity and tolerance.”
Ginee Seo, publisher at Chronicle Children’s Books, agrees. “I’m really distressed that we still have to have conversations about diversity, and I say that as a first-generation Asian American. Let’s not forget that it was intolerance that got us to 9/11,” she tells SLJ. “I’m proud of the fact that we publish this book. It describes Islam in a beautiful, creative way. It doesn’t propagate anything but greater understanding.”
According to MDJ’s report, Doug Goodwin, a spokesman for the Cobb school district, says the district welcomes Scholastic book fairs in its schools “to promote literacy and foster a love for reading” and that the fairs offer “a wide variety of children’s literature.” Goodwin also notes in the report that if a parent objects to a book selection, the district’s Library Media Education department will “gladly assist them in selecting a replacement book.”
Prisock was eventually allowed to return the book to the fair. SLJ’s requests for comment to school officials were not returned.
As for Khan, she is currently working on several picture and middle-grade book projects. She adds, “Educating kids about different cultures is key to building tolerance and acceptance.”