SINGAPORE - Writers and artists who had protested against the National Library Board's move to pulp kids picturebooks with homosexual themes were cautiously optimistic to hear on Friday that two of the controversial titles would be kept and moved to the adult section.
Married writing team Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low-Jimenez, both in their 30s and author of the Sherlock Sam series of children's books, said in a joint statement: "We think it is a very small step forward. At least, parents and guardians now have the option to borrow these books for their children. However, it still sends the message that there is something about non-traditional families that children need to be protected from. We do not believe that to be the case at all."
The books, And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express: A Story Of Adoption, were taken off public library shelves for containing some homosexual themes but on Friday, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said they would be reinstated.
A third title removed for similar reasons, Who's In My Family?: All About Our Families, has already been disposed of.
To protest against the removal of the books, five Singaporean writers resigned from NLB-related events on July 13, while a few days later, three judges of the Singapore Literature Prize dropped out over the organisers' ties to NLB.
Among them was poet and critic Gwee Li Sui, who pulled out of his panel for NLB's Read! Singapore initiative, and also refused to give his keynote at the National Schools Literature Festival, which was partnered by NLB. "I think the latest decision will go some way in helping to stop the hemorrhage," the 43-year-old said, adding that it was "unfortunate" that a third book had been destroyed.
He said he would "wait a while for wounds to close up properly" before working with the board again.
Writer Ovidia Yu, 53, who resigned from the steering committee of the Singapore Writers Festival, says she will still not take part in the festival.
She still wants NLB's commitment to a more transparent review process, possibly with a wider review panel.
"Don't let the decision rest with one person and don't let it be done in secret," she said.