Abrams will cancel the planned May 2019 publication of a graphic novel on its ComicsArts list, A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library, by Rotten Ralph creator Jack Gantos and comics illustrator Dave McKean. The move follows criticism on social media and elsewhere surrounding its content and the publisher’s choice to release a book created by two white men about a Middle Eastern child that members of the literary community saw as reinforcing a negative stereotype about people from that region.
Two white men wrote a children’s book about a child suicide bomber from a nondescript Middle Eastern country. I don’t even know where to begin going in on this one. I’m so disgusted. THIS is why we promote #ownvoices. THIS is the alternative. #ASuicideBomberSitsInTheLibrary https://t.co/K0zmXHntIO
— Brittney M. Morris (#NaNoWriMo WC – 45,505) (@BrittneyMMorris) November 20, 2018
In a statement on its Tumblr, Abrams said that it “has decided to withdraw publication of the adult graphic novel, A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library,” adding: “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.”
The statement is complicated by the publisher’s prior efforts to market the book as a children’s book. A tweet sent last month by the Abrams Kids imprint publicized the book by noting its creators’ kid-lit credentials, specifically Gantos’s 2012 Newbery Medal. Commenters on Abrams’s Tumblr, in addition to Twitter, clearly believed the book was aimed at children or adults, especially considering its format, and some criticized the statement as being disingenuous.
The book’s page has been removed from Abrams’s website, but remains live on Amazon.