Chinese boy in David Walliams novel racism claims
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Thursday 7th October 2021
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Chinese boy in David Walliams novel racism claims
The publishers of a best-selling children’s book by David Walliams are to remove a character named “Brian Wong” after criticism that it represented casual racism.
Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong is a story in Walliams’s compendium, The World’s Worst Children.
Georgie Ma, a writer and podcaster, criticised the book on social media earlier this year, saying: “There are so many racist jokes on the east and southeast Asian community with the surname Wong and associating it with ‘wrong’.
“I don’t have enough time to go through what kind of jokes these are but if David Walliams would have done his research, he would have known this,” Ms Ma wrote.
She also objected to the illustrations by Tony Ross, which gave the character “stereotypical small eyes” and glasses, and said in her podcast that the story was an example of “casual racism”.
HarperCollins met Ms Ma and, as a result, agreed to remove the story from the book and replace it with another one.
The publisher said in a statement: “In consultation with our author and illustrator we can confirm that a new story will be written to replace Brian Wong in future editions of The World’s Worst Children.
“The update will be scheduled at the next reprint as part of an ongoing commitment to regularly reviewing content.”
HarperCollins said it would not be making any comment on Walliams’s behalf.
The move follows the decision by another publisher, Picador, to update a book by Kate Clanchy in response to online criticism.
In Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, Clanchy, a former teacher, referred to two autistic pupils as “jarring company” and wrote that “probably, more than an hour a week” in their company “would irritate me… but for that hour I liked them very much”.
Clanchy referred to pupils as fat, described others as having “chocolate-coloured skin”, “Mongolian ferocity” and “Cypriot bosoms”, referred to one as “African Jonathon” and said she was baffled that a boy denied being Jewish because he clearly had an “Ashkenazi nose”.
This is not the first time that Walliams has found himself in trouble over depictions of race.
Last year, he and Matt Lucas apologised for blacking up in their comedy series, Little Britain. The series was removed from iPlayer, Netflix and BritBox after objections were raised.
Ms Ma said she was grateful to HarperCollins for “listening and taking action”.
She told The Bookseller: “‘Wong’ and ‘wrong’ are two words that are commonly used in playgrounds to pick on someone if their surname is Wong.
“Even just the way Brian has been illustrated – he wears glasses, he looks like a nerd, he’s got small eyes. They’re all harmful stereotypes. The overall character plays on the model minority myth where Chinese people are nerdy, swotty and good at maths, we’re not confrontational and we’re high achievers.
“It was just really disappointing to read that. For me, because I have a toddler, I don’t want her being absorbed in these stories where Chinese culture is misrepresented.”
Ms Ma added: “I think it’s great that authors and illustrators want to do books on different cultures. But if they’re not from that background, they really need to consult those communities and do their own research to represent them fairly.”
HarperCollins defended The World’s Worst Children only a year ago when Jack Monroe, the food writer, described it as “sneering, classist, fatshaming, grim nonsense”.
At the time, the publisher said: “David Walliams’ books have a diverse readership which is reflected in their content.
“In his World’s Worst… series he writes cautionary tales using surreal humour to champion underdogs, deflate the pompous and denounce bullies.”
TOP THIRTY-TWO OF THE DAY
TOP THIRTY-TWO DAVID WALLIAMS BOOKS
Publication Order of Standalone Novels
1 The Boy in the Dress -2008
2 Mr Stink -2009
3 Billionaire Boy -2010
4 Gangsta Granny -2011
5 RatBurger -2012
6 Demon Dentist -2013
7 Awful Auntie -2014
8 Mr Mingin: Mr Stink in Scots -2015
9 Grandpa’s Great Escape -2015
10 The Midnight Gang -2016
11 Bad Dad -2017
12 Blob -2017
13 The World of David Walliams Book of Stuff -2018
14 The Ice Monster -2018
15 Fing -2019
16 The Beast of Buckingham Palace -2019
17 Slime -2020
18 Code Name Bananas -2020
Publication Order of Picture Books
19 The Slightly Annoying Elephant -2013
20 The First Hippo on the Moon -2014
21 The Queen’s Orang-Utan -2015
22 The Bear Who Went Boo! -2015
23 There’s a snake in my school -2016
24 Boogie Bear -2018
25 Geronimo -2018
26 The Creature Choir -2019
27 Megamonster -2021
Publication Order of Short Story Collections
28 The World’s Worst Children -2016
29 The World’s Worst Children 2 -2017
30 The World’s Worst Children 3 -2018
31 The World’s Worst Teachers -2019
32 The World’s Worst Parents -2020
REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
– Nicolas Chamfort
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things. Kenneth Branagh
Happiness is…a David Walliams book.
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
“My wife – it’s difficult to say what she does. She sells seashells on the seashore.” – Milton Jones
Love is…blessing the day I found you.
A time to read David Walliams’ Megamonster…A time to read David Walliams’ Awful Auntie
1806 The first carbon paper was patented by its English inventor, Ralph Wedgwood.
1920 The first women were admitted to study for full degrees at Oxford University.
1922 The first royal broadcast was made, by the Prince of Wales, on 2LO, 11 days before it changed its named to the BBC.
1946 The BBC presented its first edition of Woman’s Hour, a daily programme of music, advice and entertainment for those in the home. The programme included an item on how to de-slime your flannels (!) and also broadcast the first episode of the thriller serial ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’.
1959 The birth of Simon Cowell, television producer, entrepreneur, and television personality. He is known as a talent judge on TV shows such as Pop Idol, The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol. He is also the owner of the television production and music publishing house Syco.
1986 A new British newspaper, The Independent, was published.
1992 The first Braille cash dispenser was installed, by the Northern Rock Building Society in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
©2021 Phil M Robinson