Singapore: The NLB controversy: Who said what?

PenguinWriters in Singapore have gone on a verbal offensive (and launched petitions) against the decision of the National Library Board (NLB) to pull out and “pulp” three controversial children’s books. NLB decided to take this step after a pro-family group in Singapore complained to the library about these titles that were supposedly anti-family.

The three titles are And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express and Who’s In My Family?

Here are reactions from some prominent writers of the city state who have spoken on the matter on their Facebook pages or have shared their thoughts with the media:

NgYishengNg Yi-Sheng, Poet

“They could have chosen a compromise solution, such as putting the books in Adult Lending, or even the Reference Section. They didn’t. Don’t think they won’t do the same again.”


cyril wongCyril Wong, Poet

“As a queer writer, I think I have reached a limit of some sort, in the light or dark of recent events. I don’t know why I’m bothering anymore. By sometime next year, I’m just going to stop; yes, stop publishing, stop working with governmental organisations, even stop writing.”

alvin_pangAlvin Pang, Poet

“As a Read! Singapore author and Singaporean writer who is frequently called upon by the NLB as a resource person, and also as a concerned parent, I am disturbed by the recent withdrawal of two books from the Children’s section — made at the request of a member of the public, but without, it seems, any broader consultation or consideration of alternative measures.

“I am concerned that the National Library is moving away from its mission of encouraging more (rather than less) engagement and learning. I am concerned that we are reducing opportunities for Singaporean readers and families to explore ideas and discover possibilities at their own discretion and pace. I am concerned that we have started down the slippery slope of seeing books not as conversations, reflections or observations, but as crude instruction manuals or advertorials for particular kinds of thought or behaviour. This is a serious impoverishment of what books are and what knowledge means, and it can only harm our intellectual development and broader social discourse.”

Alfian-SaatAlfian Sa’at, Playwright

“I’m up for any collective action by Singapore writers. We can boycott NLB events, dissociate ourselves from the NLB. And instead of hiding behind a vague ‘pro-family’ stand, our stand is precise and clear: We are against censorship, an opaque bureaucracy and the destruction of books.”

(Various sources)

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