US publisher Abrams has withdrawn a graphic novel about a would-be terrorist after protests.
A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library by Jack Gantos and Dave McKean, which was due for publication in May next year, is about a boy who enters a library wearing an explosive vest hidden underneath his jacket. He intends to use the vest but as he observes other people becoming captivated by the books they are reading, he starts to question his reason for being there.
More than 1,000 writers have signed an open letter from the Asian Author Alliance protesting against the book’s publication, saying that the “premise alone is steeped in Islamophobia and profound ignorance”.
The letter states: “According to text on the back of the book, the young suicide bomber has an “unquestionable duty to his beliefs”— as if it is his faith that compels him to be a terrorist, as if he must act in opposition to his faith to show humanity. The premise alone is steeped in Islamophobia and profound ignorance. Further, though the text refers to the characters as boys, the illustrations of brown-skinned individuals with receding hairlines and dark circles under their squinting, villainous eyes are dehumanizing and do not seem in any way child-like…
“Today, the biggest terrorist threat in the United States is white supremacy. In publishing A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library, Abrams is willfully fear-mongering and spreading harmful stereotypes in a failed attempt to show the power of story.”
In response Abrams decided to halt publication and released a statement saying: “While the intention of the book was to help broaden a discussion about the power of literature to change lives for the better, we recognize the harm and offense felt by many at a time when stereotypes breed division, rather than discourse. Therefore, together with the book’s creators, we have chosen to withdraw its release.”
McKean told the Guardian Abrams made the right decision to bin the book, even though he had initially defended it on twitter.
“A few factors changed from the initiation of the project until now, and I’m sure we all have our own thoughts to take away from all this. I already had my doubts that a story like this should come from outside the community involved, and the arguments on Twitter convinced me that it shouldn’t,” he said. “I’ve listened and learned a hard but valuable lesson.”