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Singapore National Library Board moves children’s book to adults’ section after complaints of racism

By Anna Maria Romero The Independent, Sg October 20, 2020


Facebook screengrab: Umm Yusof


SINGAPORE – After criticism in July that it contained racist content, a Chinese-language children’s book has been moved to the adults’ section of public libraries, according to a statement from the National Library Board (NLB) on Monday (Oct 19).

Who Wins? (谁赢了), written by Wu Xing Hua (吴星华) and published by Marshall Cavendish Education in 2018, underwent a three-month review after netizen Umm Yusof took to Facebook on July 17 to complain that the antagonist in the book was “described in explicitly racialise terms, in contrast to all the other characters who are depicted as fair-skinned.”

“Author basically channels the old-school Chinese parent threat of ‘Behave or the Ah Neh will get you’, with a dash of the ‘Oily Man’ and ‘smelly Indian’ bogeys thrown in,” she wrote.

She tagged the publisher asking why it had released a book “in which the sole dark-skinned character is irredeemably nasty – especially when his appearance is irrelevant to the plot?,” and said she would ask the NLB to remove it from circulation.

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On July 19, the NLB confirmed that the board would review the book, reported

“This will be done in consultation with our Library Consultative Panel, which is an independent and citizen-based panel,” said an NLB representative. They removed all copies of the book from the libraries during the period of review.

The panel gives the NLB recommendations concerning books the public has concerns over. Channel NewsAsia quotes the board as saying, “As NLB acquires about 1 million books annually, we rely on patrons’ feedback and the review by the panel.”

Upon finishing the review and after considering feedback from the public, NLB announced that it would be moved to the family and parenting section located in the adults’ collection.

“Parents and guardians can make use of this book to discuss how children can deal with bullying in schools and correct any potential misunderstandings that children may have.”

Marshall Cavendish Education said it “welcomes” NLB’s move to place book to the adult section of the library. According to the publisher, “After an internal review, we have decided not to resume retail sales of the series.

We will continue to work closely with our myriad of passionate authors to produce content that supports, nurtures, and inspires students,” the publisher added, thanking the public for support and feedback.

In July, after Ms Yusof’s post became widely shared, Marshall Cavendish Education responded by and thanking her for bringing the matter to their attention.

In a comment it added, “We appreciate any feedback given and will do our utmost to resolve the issue.”

The publisher did put out a statement of apology but did not specifically mention the aspects of racism that Ms Yusof brought up. —/TISG

Source: The Independent, Singapore October 20, 2020

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