David Walliams’ publisher has made the decision to remove a story from one of his children’s books, after he and illustrator Tony Ross were criticised for including “harmful stereotypes” in the way a Chinese character was depicted.
The former Little Britain star published the short story collection The World’s Worst Children in 2016, which include the tale of “Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong”.
Earlier this year, podcast presenter Georgie Ma – who had previously been among the story’s most high-profile critics – revealed she’d taken part in a virtual meeting with HarperCollins to “discuss how problematic some of the stories are in The World’s Worst Children”.
Five months later, HarperCollins has announced they’ve made the decision to remove “Brian Wong” from future editions of the book, and replace the story with a freshly-written one.
In a statement, they said: “In consultation with our author and illustrator [Tony Ross] 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.”
HuffPost UK has contacted David Walliams’ representatives for additional comment.
Georgie Ma previously 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 about that. Personally for me, because I have a toddler, I don’t want her being absorbed in these stories where Chinese culture is misrepresented.”
Following HarperCollins’ decision, she said she felt “grateful” for the change being made, adding: “I feel there are more stories within the book that need reviewing, but this is just the start…
“I want this to be a learning for all authors who write stories based on marginalised communities, to do their research and seek guidance such as sensitivity reads. Especially if they are not from that community.
“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.”