Another dot in the blogosphere?

NLB book saga

Posted on: July 13, 2014

There is a hubbub about three children’s books being withdrawn and destroyed by the National Library Board (NLB) because they were deemed inappropriate to family norms. There has been a backlash on social media and just about everyone seems to have something to say about it.

I will not lead by offering my two cents. Instead I ask a few questions first.

  • What exactly are societal norms of what constitutes a family?
  • Why do online rags like saying that moves like NLB’s “drew flak from netizens” (as if no other party fired salvos)?
  • When are we going to allow actual stakeholders (library users in this case) to vote on whether to allow the books to stay on the shelves?

If you think about it, the main issue is not so much about why the books were banned and more about how we deal with creative and critical enterprise as a society. We are very much a nannied state.

Going off on a tangent, I draw a parallel from the arena of the performing arts. Local artists are protesting the Media Development Authority’s self-licensing/self-classification/self-­censorship scheme because they argue that it is still about central regulation.

Video source

Coming back on topic, why does the NLB not ban some other children’s books because of unbecoming family values?

Take Snow White off the shelves. A step-mother talks to a mirror and decides to kill her step-daughter. The step-daughter lives with not one but seven men of questionable repute. When they sing hi-ho while off to work they go, they might mean something else altogether.

Remove Hansel and Gretel for parents who leave their kids to die in the woods only for the kids to kill the woman who took them in. Granted the woman treated Gretel like a slave and wanted to eat Hansel, but why expose our kids to such trauma and violence and plant these ideas in their heads?

And let us not forget about Beauty and the Beast. What family values are there in settling a debt by selling your daughter and letting said daughter dabble in beastiality?

I admit that I take some creative licence in retelling these stories based on movies which were based on books.

As ridiculous as these examples might sound, the point I am trying to make is that we need to take in more perspectives and new perspectives. Blogger, Mr Miyagi, put it best when he implored:

But I beg you to wake up and look around you. These things hap­pen. Please SUPPORT, not PROMOTE, teenaged, sin­gle, wid­owed par­ents and what­ever is left of their fam­i­lies! These books are part of a com­mu­nity life­line for chil­dren who through no fault of their own, have been labelled “illegitimate”.

There is a silver lining around this saga of banned children’s books. More attention has been drawn to the books, owners of these books are organizing read ins, and responsible parents and educators are talking to their kids about the issues these books raise.

Singapore turns 50 next year and there was a call for ideas on what and how to celebrate. The deadline for ideas is over, so I suggest we give ourselves a birthday present. Is it too much to ask that we show get maturity and act our age?

1 Response to "NLB book saga"

[…] – I am a human being too: It Begins With Three Books – Another dot in the blogosphere?: NLB book saga – Ryan Goh: Why NLB and Minister Yaacob Ibrahim is wrong – Everything Also Complain: […]


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