NLB Moves Chinese Language Book To Family and Parenting Section After Complaints Of 'Racist' Content
"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," said NLB.
The National Library Board (NLB) announced on Monday (Oct 19) that it has completed its review of a Chinese language book previously removed from its shelves in July, after a library user complained about its ‘racist’ content.
The picture book, titled 谁赢了? (Who Wins?) by Wu Xing Hua features a “dark-skinned” boy with “oily curly hair” called “Mao Mao”, or hairy in english terms.
NLB said in a statement that it has decided to move the title from the Children’s Section to the Family and Parenting section located in the Adults’ Collection.
This comes after taking into account public feedback and consulting with its Library Consultative Panel—an independent and citizen-based panel.
“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,” said NLB.
Estella Young, a mum who borrowed the book for her 8-year-old son, reportedly discovered its “astoundingly racist” content while flipping through the pages at home.
She proceeded to express her displeasure of the book using the alias of Umm Yusof in a Facebook post, and requested NLB to remove the title from their shelves.
According to her, Mao Mao is described in “explicitly racialised terms, and in contrast to all the other characters who are depicted as fair-skinned.”
In the book, Mao Mao is also portrayed as an aggressive “school bully” whom “everyone is afraid of”.
An example would be Mao Mao getting the protagonist, Pi Pi, to complete his homework. However, if Pi Pi refuses, he would be subjected to Mao Mao’s bullying acts.
It is said that Mao Mao would also resort to snatching Pi Pi’s food if Pi Pi refused to buy his favourite food for him.
In one instance, Mao Mao gave Pi Pi a “bloody nose” and was cursed by Pi Pi as “smelly”. According to Young, Mao Mao is painted in a negative light throughout the book, without given any chances for redemption.
“This book doesn’t use the common redemptive tropes of the bully just being misunderstood, or the protagonist turning him into a friend. Big Bad Black Boy is aggressive from start to end, spurring Pi Pi to learn martial arts (“Karate Kid” trope). The book ends with both boys fighting in the canteen and getting hauled to the principal’s office,” wrote Young, who is also a freelance writer.
Young also criticised the publisher, Marshall Cavendish Education, in her post on how they could have allowed such a book to be published. She explains that Mao Mao’s appearance had nothing to do with the plot.
Marshall Cavendish Education is known to be a leading academic publisher of K-12 math textbooks, workbooks and digital curricula among others.
Who Wins? was published by Marshall Cavendish Education in 2018 and is part of a series of five books, Amazing Adventures Of Pi Pi.
According to media reports on Tuesday (21 Jul), Marshall Cavendish Education has apologised for causing any misunderstanding to readers. The publisher also said in a statement to CNA’s queries that they have halted the sale and distribution of the books from retail stores.
Marshall Cavendish Education also seeks to reassure readers that there is no intention from the publisher to “produce content that promotes discrimination in any way”.