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Racist Children’s Book Not to be Included in Collection

Last week was banned book week so it is a provocative time for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to pull Tintin in the Congo from its fall list. Tintin in the Congo has been widely criticized for its racist depiction of Colonial-era Africans. The “in the Cong” book will also be excluded from the box set of 24 books in the Tintin series to be released to coincide with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's forthcoming Tintin movie which is slated to debut in 2008.

Belgian artist Hergà© wrote the Tintin book and drew the accompanying illustrations which features dialogue that is considered racist as well as pictures of Africans who resemble monkeys. Borders will be stocking the book in its adult section.

This is truly a tough call. On the one hand, I hate the idea of banning any kind of book. On the other, I hate the idea of racist literature being widely available and perpetuating inaccurate stereotypes.

Via PublishersWeekly.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Caro
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 10:13:00

    I can definitely understand not including it in the children’s collection. No, it shouldn’t be banned but given the racial stereotypes, I don’t think it should be given to children without some form of context. I do like that Borders will be carrying the book in the adult section, so it’s not as if it’s being banished completely from the store. I should note that at one of my local Borders, it will likely be locked up in a glass case, as that’s the store’s practice due to a high incidence of damage and shoplifting to their comic collection stock.

    Several years ago, Fox Movie Channel met with protest over their decision to run a Charlie Chan film festival. The portrayal of the detective is considered by some offensive due to the stereotypes in the films and the fact they cast a non-Asian actor in the role. FMC opted to go ahead and run the films, but they bookended the movies with a discussion of the attitudes toward Asians at the time the films were made. We need to be careful about how stereotypes are presented, but we also need to not pretend these things didn’t exist. If we do that, it’s easy to forget they happened at all — and that opens the door for them to happen again.

  2. Angela
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 11:12:26

    If we do that, it's easy to forget they happened at all -‘ and that opens the door for them to happen again.

    Except they still do exist. There’s just not any discussion of them–and I mean constant, consistent discussion of them. If you even care about racism and stereotypes you have to seek out those books, blogs and websites, but for the most part most people don’t even think twice about such topics in their every day life.

  3. sherry thomas
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 11:42:44

    I read that book many years ago, when I was a little girl in China. I can’t remember whether it was Tintin in Congo, or some Jules Verne book. But before the translated text began, there was a note from the publisher that stated that readers should beware that the book contained colonialistic attitudes and depictions.

    Most Chinese translations of European books from a certain era contained such warnings and sometimes even a small discussion. China, from mid-1800s to mid-1900s, had been subjected to a good deal of humiliation at the hand of various European powers, and the Communist government was not about to let slide expressions of racial and imperial superiorities without pointing them out.

  4. lakaribane
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 12:23:44

    well, I read Tintin as a child and it’s only as an adult that I was even aware of all the controversy! To think my mother was telling me that we needed to buy the box set of comics just this past Saturday.

    I have to agree withe the posters above re: context. Would I still be considered a bad parent if I gave my (black or white) kid TITC to read, even if I explained that in the 30s, Europeans weren’t embarrassed to present Africans as inferiors?

    I also wonder if the other “exotic” locals Tintin visited will be under the same scrutiny, such as Tibet, Russia or even the USA? Or is it just the African one that’s shocking?

    Please also note that (to my surprise!) the albums are listed in Adult comics sections of several online Fr sellers. In my mind, it’s a children’s book and it’s often given away to kids all around me.

  5. Kaz Augustin
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 17:54:56

    I had to laugh at the description because, growing up in a Western country in the 70s I was exactly called a “black monkey”, amongst other names, on numerous occasions at school. And I’m Asian!

    I think an explicit warning at the front (a la China via Sherry) is a great way to attack this. Just sweeping it under the carpet isn’t going to do anyone any good. As Angela says, these sorts of discussions have to take place out in the open.

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