Abrams has cancelled the release of writer Jack Gantos and illustrator Dave McKean's A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library following outcry about the comic.
According to a post from abramsbooks on Tumblr, the publisher has "decided to withdraw publication of the adult graphic novel." The post specifies that the decision was made in conjunction with Gantos and McKean and a result of "offense felt by many at a time when stereotypes breed division, rather than discourse."
Abrams released a preview of the A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library in October. However, it seemingly wasn't until comics publisher Zainab Akhtar addressed the issue that the controversy surrounding the book really heated up. Akhtar focused on the book's problematic representation of Muslim boys. McKean defended the book in a series of replies on Twitter, but Abrams' statement on the cancellation of A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library seems to indicate that he was involved in the decision to shelve the project.
The book has a tagline of “People stop thinking when they cease to read.” Because reading will help the ignorant brown Muslim boy question/renounce his beliefs, you see, in addition to being some vague kumbaya about how a specific interpretation of culture will save the barbarian— Zainab Akhtar (@comicsandcola) November 19, 2018
Still thinking about this awful book and imagining it in schools as the only 'representation' some Muslim kids have in their school libraries. Having it read and discussed, learning that this is how the world views and demonises you, how other children are taught to see you.— Zainab Akhtar (@comicsandcola) November 20, 2018
Following Abrams' announcement of the book's cancellation, Akhtar again took to Twitter, describing Abrams' statement as "highly disingenuous," as the book, which Abrams described as an "adult graphic novel," was initially marketed as a "kids title."
They also weirdly bemoan a time when 'stereotypes bred discourse instead of division'?? Which is a strange way to acknowledge the Muslim character is a stereotype, not to mention ahistorically incorrect.— Zainab Akhtar (@comicsandcola) November 23, 2018
Although Abrams' own synopsis has seemingly been removed from its website, a cached version of the page adds that the boy "has no ability to read," which McKean said was an error. Otherwise, the synopsis on Amazon, which you can find below, is fairly similar to the one that was present on Abrams' website. Abrams' description of the book also emphasizes Gantos' awards and accomplishments as a children's author.
“Suddenly his cell phone rings. His breath quickens.”
When a young boy enters a library wearing an explosive vest hidden underneath his lovely new red jacket, he has only one plan on his mind.
But as he observes those around him becoming captivated by the books they are reading, the boy can’t help but question his reason for being there.
Dave McKean’s unique mixed-media illustrations bring to life bestselling author Jack Gantos’s story of a young suicide bomber and the unexpected power of books to change lives.
Gantos is a children's author known for creating Rotten Ralph and Joey Pigza. He won a coveted Newbery Medal in 2012. McKean is a comic book artist and filmmaker known for his work on Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Hellblazer and Sandman.
A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library was originally scheduled for release on May 14, 2019. The book, which was supposed to be released through the Abrams ComicArts imprint, no longer has a release date.