When asked to remove references to racism from her book, the author refused (2023)


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The case involving Scholastic sparked outrage among authors and became an example of how the culture wars behind the increasing banning of school books have reached publishers.

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When asked to remove references to racism from her book, the author refused (1)

DoorAleksandra has changedandElizabeth A Harris

(Video) Bay Area author refuses to cut 'racism' references in new book

It was the most personal story Maggie Tokuda-Hall had ever written: the story of how her grandparents met and fell in love in an Idaho POW camp where the Japanese were held during World War II.

The book "Love in the library" is intended for children aged 6 to 9 years. Published last year by a small children's publisher, Candlewick Press, it shinedSentencebut sales were modest. That's why Tokuda-Hall was thrilled when Scholastic, the publishing giant that distributes books and supplies to 90 percent of schools, said last month that it wanted to license its book for use in the classroom.

When Tokuda-Hall read the details of the offer, she felt depressed and then furious. Scholastic wanted to remove references to racism in America from the author's note, which speaks directly to readers. The decision was painful, Tokuda-Hall said, but she rejected Scholastic and publicly described her problems.blogpostandTwitter reportwhich attracted more than five million views.

Tokuda-Hall's revelations caused outrage among themauthors of children's booksand conducted an intensive analysis of the editorial process of the world's largest publisher for children. The outbreak occurred at a time when the culture wars are ragingtries to ban booksin schools, especially books aboutrace or sexuality- and ask questions about whetheralready published articles must be edited againremove potentially offensive content.

"We're all seeing what's happening with this growing culture of banning books," Tokuda-Hall said. "If we all know that the largest publisher of children's books in the country, the one with the greatest access to schools, capitulates behind closed doors and asks authors to adapt their work to such demand, then it is impossible for you as a marginalized author to find listeners.

Scholastic moved quickly to contain the fallout. She apologized to Tokuda-Hall and illustrator Yasu Imamura and offered to publish the book with the author's original notes. Tokuda-Hall rejected them, saying she was unconvinced by the company's efforts.

The company has also delayed production of a collection that would include "Love in the Library," which would likely include about 150 books by or about Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders while they assess what went wrong.



(Video) [Latest]Asked to Delete References to Racism From Her Book, an Author Refused

For Tokuda-Hall's book, Scholastic's suggested changes include removing a sentence in which she contextualized her grandparents' experiences as part of a "deeply American tradition of racism." The company also requested the removal of a paragraph linking bigotry against Japanese-Americans to current and past racism, in which Tokuda-Hall describes a culture that "allows police to kill black people" and "imprison children" at our border."

In an email to Tokuda-Hall that he shared with The Times, Candlewick relayed Scholastic's request and the company's concern that schools might avoid buying a book with such candid comments at this "particularly politically sensitive" time about racism. On Amazon and Goodreads, some readers complained that Tokuda-Hall's message was too political for a young audience.

Shortly after Tokuda-Hall released information about the April 12 incident, several authors and educators invited by Scholastic were invited to consult and put together a series that would include Tokuda-Hall's book.convictedof the company's operations and requested an audit of the editorial process.

One of the authors who consulted the collection, Sayantani DasGupta, resigned in protest. "They're preemptively censoring the collection and saying, 'Hey, we're going to publish a few stories, but we're only going to publish them in the most palatable form,'" DasGupta said.

Similar controversies have recently arisen over attempts to remove discussions of racism from textbooks. The textbook's publisher, Studies Weekly, was later criticizedrevised elementarytextbook, so the Rosa Parks story no longer contained references to segregation or race.

However, many were shocked to learn that a prominent commercial publisher like Scholastic required such revisions.

More than 650 librarians and educators, who make up a large part of Scholastic's user base,petitionto Scholastic, demanding that the company release the book in its original form and "take public responsibility for the decision to censor the book."

Jillian Heise, an elementary school librarian in Wisconsin who organized the petition, said the original author's comment is something young children — many of whom experience racism in their daily lives — can struggle with.

"Kids can understand on a simple level that when we treat people differently because of who they are, how they identify or what they look like, it's not fair," she said. She continued that this conversation "helps their perception of themselves and their perception of the world develop with empathy."



(Video) Bay Area author refuses Scholastic's suggested revision to cut 'racism' references in book

In an interview Thursday, Scholastica CEO Peter Warwick said the company will evaluate "all aspects of our curatorial approach."

"Scholastic has published many diverse voices and stories, and the fact that this incident occurred in the context of our diverse publications is troubling to all of us," Warwick said.

After Tokuda-Hall's complaint, the company decided to delay the full collection within 24 hours, Warwick said. She invited two outside experts to investigate how the collection was compiled and arranged. The review covers not only the "Love in the Library" series, but also the entire "Rising Voices" show, which includes other collections such as "Elevating Latino Stories" and "Celebrating Girls of Color."

The review will examine whether and how other books have been edited to remove potentially polarizing ideas, Warwick confirmed.

Another author, whose book would be in the same series as Love in the Library, said her work was edited to reword the rule, removing an idea some might consider politically sensitive. When Scholastic requested the change, it explained in an email to the author's publisher that it was because of its concern about the political climate causing censorship in schools, the author said.

The author has asked to remain anonymous and to withhold any details identifying the publication due to his ongoing relationship with Scholastic.


The debate comes as Scholastic tries to gain a foothold in schools, where it typically sells more than 100 million books a year to 35 million children through its scholarships.

Like other publishers, Scholastic has sought to increase the diversity of authors and titles in recent years. She has published ground-breaking works about LGBTQ people. characters and tackles complex issues of race, gender, sexuality and cultural identity, including bestsellers such as Heartstopper, a series of graphic novels about a romance between two high school students.

Scholastic also licenses and distributes books from other publishers for its school programs, including clubs and fairs and the education department.Two publishing directors at other companies with direct knowledge of licensing at Scholastic said it is not uncommon for a company to request changes to already published text.

Commonly requested changes include removing profanity or violence, the publisher told The Times. An executive at another children's publishing house that regularly licenses books to Scholastic said Scholastic has made several requests for changes to tone down politically sensitive or potentially polarizing content. The two directors spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss editorial processes that are usually confidential.

It's unclear how Scholastic's editorial practices will change in light of the current controversy. Some authors whose works have been selected for the same collection as Love in the Library are closely following Scholastic's next steps.

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"It's a collection of stories that needs a wider audience," says Katrina Moore, whose book "Teeny Houdini: The Disappearing Act" would be included. “I would like to continue to be involved in fundraising, but I have to feel good about seeing them progress. Well, I'm watching, but I'm hoping.

Audio produced by Jack D'Isidoro.

Alexandra Alter writes about publishing and the literary world. Before joining The Times in 2014, she reported on books and culture for The Wall Street Journal. She previously wrote about faith and the occasional hurricane for The Miami Herald. @xanage

Elizabeth A. Harris writes about books and publications for The Times. @Liz_A_Harris

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