AAP Supports The Freedom of Speech for Bad Little Children's Books
Earlier this fall, Abrams published a book of adult humor satirizing the rather saccharine covers of the Little Golden Books that many of us grew up with. Edgy and politically incorrect, the book, Bad Little Children’s Books, is definitely not intended for children. It is described by the publisher as “a collection of intentionally offensive parodies,” and received positive reviews when it was published.
In recent days, however, there has been a storm of controversy in the blogosphere over the book’s “racism,” with demands for the recall of the book and a boycott against its publisher. Although the publisher held firm and did not recall the book, they acceded to the author’s request not to print further editions. Over the weekend, AAP joined with the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (ALAOIF) in issuing the following statement:
As organizations dedicated to protecting intellectual freedom, the freedom to write, and the freedom to read, we are concerned about recent attacks on a humorous book, Bad Little Children’s Books, which has recently come under attack by critics who are offended by its satirical send-up of children’s books and contemporary culture.
The publisher, ABRAMS, describes the book as “edgy, politically incorrect parodies that speak to the bad little kid in all of us.” Written for an adult audience, the book includes “parodies of children’s book covers from more innocent times… [and] leaves no bad joke unmade.”
Humor that employs satire and parody is often the subject of criticism and controversy. Some of the most significant comedians of the recent past - Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Tom Lehrer, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, and many others - have been vilified for doing precisely what this book does – make fun of social niceties, conventional wisdom, and sacred cows. At the same time, there are many who appreciate this type of humor, as evidenced by other readers’ reaction to the book, like one who wrote “So distasteful, it’s delicious. Hysterical.”
We support ABRAMS’ decision to publish this, or any other book, even if it offends some readers. We urge the company not to accede to pressure to withdraw the book, but to stand for the proposition that it is the right of authors to write as they choose and of individuals to decide for themselves what to read. After all, anyone who doesn’t like the book doesn’t have to buy it.
As defenders of free expression and intellectual freedom, we value the incredibly rich array of books that publishers make available for readers with different needs, interests, and sensibilities. It would be a tragic loss if publishers withdrew or declined to publish any book because some people don’t like it. Our bookstores and library shelves would become barren places indeed.