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Little Black Sambo Reprint a Hit in Japan
Analysis of today's diversity news from LA Weekly, the Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, the San Francisco Chronicle, MSNBC.com and more:
Little Black Sambo was attacked as being racist and banned in 1988 after a Washington Post report on the popularity of the book "that most Americans thought had died a well-deserved death years ago" prompted an American campaign to take it off Japanese shelves. The word "Sambo" is a derogatory term for black Americans. And critics complained that illustrator Frank Dobias' drawings of the main character, with exaggerated, thick lips, was racist.
But 17 years after being banned, Tokyo publisher Zuiunsha decided there was still a market for Chibikuro Sambo, the book that had charmed older generations of Japanese children. He was right. The small publisher, which specializes in reprints, has sold a reported 95,000 copies in two months and the children's book sits among the top five adult-fiction bestsellers at several major Tokyo book chains. The re-release of Sambo hasn't prompted much controversy in Japan, where blacks are rare. There was one critical commentary written by a black American living in the country. And by Saturday, an online petition against Zuiunsha contained 263 signatures, although most of them were from non-Japanese and many weren't even living in the country.