Recalling a Book: Bowing to Pressure, or Righting Wrongs?


Is it ever right for a publisher to withdraw a children’s book based on public criticism, as in the case of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, which Scholastic pulled after objection to its illustrations of cheerful slaves?  Instead, should readers be able to evaluate these controversial depictions themselves?  Do we run the risk of only publishing narrow, “politically correct” portrayals of racially sensitive subjects?
So People Disagree. Is This a Problem?
Joan Bertin, executive director, National Coalition Against Censorship
"Withdrawing a book from circulation—which makes it disappear as effectively as burning—is a dangerous course. The book is gone. By the same logic, other books will also disappear, or never be written. But there’s another compelling cause for concern: Censorship often works against those who are the most marginalized—historically, women, minorities, and dissidents...."
We Will Continue to Raise Our Voices: Survival, Slavery, Censorship
Daniel José Older, author, Shadowshaper
"This ‘shocking and unprecedented case of self-censorship’ was, in fact, an editorial decision. The publishing industry makes thousands of them every day. They happen in response to many factors, including outside pressure, personal bias, and money. This decision happened after many voices were raised opposing the book, led by Black Lives Matter activist Leslie Mac...."
You Don’t Show the Sweet Without the Bitter
Sarah Hannah Gómez, program manager at We Need Diverse Books
"I understand small moments of joy on a page, like a slave receiving a Christmas present, because I can place those stories into a broad landscape and see them as the exception, not the norm. You have to earn hopeful stories about horrifying events, and you can only see what hope means if the horrors lurking nearby are visible..."