My children’s book about India was rejected because I’m white

August 25, 2023 • 10:00 am

As you may recall, several years ago I wrote a children’s book called Mr. Das and his Fifty Cats. In 2022, I mentioned it (and my travails finding a home for it) here, where I gave a brief description:

“Mr. Das and his 50 cats”  [is] a fictional work that is actually based heavily on a real person: Birendra Das, one of India’s most famous sweetmakers (his business, K. C. Das and company, is famous in Kolkata).  I stayed with Mr. Das in Bangalore (now called “Bengaluru”) to do “field work” observing his life and his cats, and found that he indeed had around fifty cats, whose names I learned. Around these facts—and the knowlege that Mr. Das took all of those cats in as strays—I wove a fictional tale about the cats invading the factory in times of famine and eating all the milk, cream, and yogurt. (Indian sweets are heavily laden with sugar and dairy products.) The story of how that led to the closure of Mr. Das’s sweet business, and then how the cats fixed the situation in the end, is the subject of my book.

I quite liked the story, as did others, including parents of small children and school teachers to whom I vetted the book (the story is meant for kids from about first to fourth grades).  I got a lot of good suggestions before it arrived at its final incarnation.

Eventually, on the advice of my agent (who doesn’t handle non-science books),  I sent the manuscript to a well known agent in England, who worked with a very famous illustrator. They both liked the book a lot and agreed to provide illustrations, which, given the fame of the illustrator, would almost guarantee publication.

I got a few illustrations, but then: radio silence. This lasted for months, and every six months I’d email to ask what was going on.  I’d get some reply that finding a publisher was still in the works.  Then, more radio silence.  This went on for several years, and I grew increasingly depressed.

Sensing that some of the delay was due to a common issue—a white guy writing about an Indian scenario—I asked my Indian friend who had introduced me to Mr. Das to write a brief preface for the book describing Mr. Das and promoting the story.  That, I thought, would defuse any notions of “cultural appropriation” that might arise. I also had Mr. Das write (through his nephew, since Mr. Das doesn’t speak or write English very well) giving his permission for me to publish the book.  That made me very happy because Mr. Das is in his mid-eighties and I wanted this remarkable man to see the book about him appear before he passed on. I wanted people to know about Mr. Das and his overweening love of animals. His life and actions are absolutely unique—and heartwarming.

I emphasize again that everyone who read the book (though without illustrations) seemed to like it. The delays seemed to be due to other reasons.

Yesterday I found out that this intuition was right: I was guilty of cultural appropriation, and so the book wasn’t even shown to publishers by the agent. I got this email, which I’ve redacted to omit names and identities. It was also copied to the illustrator. I have bolded the sentence that hurts:

Dear Jerry,

I am so sorry for the silence on my end.  This has been a painful and difficult situation.

I was concerned that you and ILLUSTRATOR’S NAME REDACTED (who has already had an issue with a book cancelled for reasons that had nothing to do with [his/her] wonderful work, but everything to do with our current publishing culture) would be seen as creators trying to appropriate another culture.  I’m sure you’re aware that this is an enormous issue in book publishing these days, and it has only become bigger since you sent me this book.

Over the last year or so, I showed it to several people in the business who all felt it was not a good idea for white authors to be writing about this character in this time and place. 

I was at a loss as to how to tell you this and I am deeply, deeply sorry that I allowed my anxieties to keep me from being honest with you sooner.  To be clear, I did not submit it to publishers, but asked opinions of others in the children’s book world.  Thus, if you wish to approach other agents, you can honestly say that this book has not been submitted to editors, which gives you a better shot if you find an agent with a vision for how to get it published.



So the book wasn’t even vetted to publishers because I’m white. I emphasize again that Mr. Das and his Fifty Cats is a humorous, and affectionate book, respectful towards both Mr. Das and Indian culture, which I love. But in fiction these days—particularly young adult and children’s fiction—you can’t write about one culture if you belong to another.  Mr. Das is Indian and I am white: that’s all publishers need to know to reject a book. The contents, apparently, don’t matter.

Now I don’t blame the agent, as he/she is working commercially, and if a book won’t sell because it involves “cultural appropriation,” why even show it to publishers? (Though I thought it should have been vetted.) But because of this misguided and toxic climate of “cultural appropriation,” readers will never get to learn about Mr. Das, who is portrayed as the real, empathic person he is, though the part about his cats is fictional. (Can one culturally appropriate Indian cats?)

So I’m quite down about all this, and I also think about all the great books of the past—both adult and children’s fiction—that wouldn’t have been published had they been vetted for “cultural appropriation.”  It hurts doubly because not only do I think that cultures are enriched by appropriation, but also because that ludicrous sanction was applied to me.

Now I do think that giving harder looks to books by minority authors is a good thing—an idea that’s developed in the last decade as we realize that the work of these authors may have been unfairly overlooked.  But that’s not the same thing as rejecting books about one culture written by authors from another. If those books are disrespectful of that culture, then yes, they shouldn’t be published. But mine wasn’t.

I posting this for three reasons. First, I want to publicize what’s going on in young-adult and children’s fiction these days. Second, I wanted to show how it affected me in particular (I worked very hard for two years to write a children’s book). If the book had been rejected because it was bad, well, that’s one thing. But it was rejected (or not sent on to publishers) simply because of my skin color. There is nothing disrespectful about India or Indians in it.

Finally, I’m hoping there is someone out there willing to take the chance on publishing, or helping publish, this book. I am proud of it and don’t want to give up, especially in these circumstances. All I ask is that people don’t tell me to self-publish the book, as it needs an illustrator (illustrators are usually chosen by publishers after a book is accepted), and that would be hard (and expensive) to find.

It’s ironic that an Indian author would, I believe, have no trouble writing a story about an American who took care of fifty cats, but the reverse situation is considered racist or bigoted.  This situation needs to change.  While we do need to consider the work of minority authors more carefully, that doesn’t mean that books should be rejected solely on the grounds of “cultural appropriation”. Such as the tenor or our times.

Or, as Vonnegut wrote, “so it goes.”

85 thoughts on “My children’s book about India was rejected because I’m white

  1. Publish or yourself. There are many print in demand services who also support distribution. For example,

      1. Using Indian illustrators may not be a bad idea. Some that come to mind based on books I have read to my kids. Stateside:
        Divya Srinivasan, Sanjay Patel, Ranjan Somiah

        You could also try Indian publishers, like Tulika Books through whom you might find desi illustrators from India.

        From western publishers, I find more books written by Indians and illustrated by non-Indians.

  2. Ooohhh this really burns my knishes. I’m not sure why you don’t blame the agent, seeing as he was extremely unprofessional in not telling you for months on end because of his “anxieties.” “Oh, heavens, my anxieties! I don’t think I can write a simple email explaining the situation. I’ll sit on it for plenty of time and leave my client twisting in the wind, wondering what’s happening. Because I’m too anxious to tell him. Where’s my laudanum? If only I could get to my fainting couch…”

    That’s not the part of this scenario that makes me even close to angriest, but I just felt the need to point out how unprofessional it is. You could have been looking for another agent/publisher this entire time, but this jerk left you high and dry.

    Unfortunately, you may need to look to a non-woke publishing house. There are plenty that would produce a quality children’s book (and one I would definitely like to have!), but they may also produce religious and other stuff. Then again, most woke publishers produce religious books as well, so…

    A very upsetting situation in every way.

    1. I was going to point this out as well. It’s ok for the agent to pass on it, but they should have done so as soon as they decided not to send it to publishers. Extremely unprofessional.

    2. Ooohhh this really burns my knishes.

      I thought the idiom in question was to burn one’s kishkes, buddy (though eating a burnt knish is no bargain either). I may be naught but a simple, common goy, but I try to keep track of the difference between a stuffed pastry and a stuffed intestine. 🙂

          1. Aah, Rounders. A potentially excellent movie let down by some clunky writing (his tell is…what? Oreos???) and an abysmal performance from John Malkovich. I have trouble thinking of an actor who’s had more great and terrible performances than Malkovich (Malkovich? Malkovich! Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich). I mean, the man doesn’t exactly have much range, so that’s probably the reason. Put him in Dangerous Liaisons or Being John Malkovich and he can give you something good, but don’t ask him for too much deviation from his general type, which is basically himself. He’s kind of like Elliot Gould in that way, except that I like Elliot Gould’s performances a lot more, especially in movies like The Long Goodbye, The Silent Partner, and California Split.

            Edward Norton is fantastic, but of course he is. He’s Edward Norton.

            1. I agree about the Oreo-eating “tell” in Rounders, especially in a film that otherwise had some sharp dialogue about poker playing. (It’s also heavy-handed on the symbolism as to how gangsters like Teddy KGB eat the souls of their opponents and enemies.)

              When I originally saw Rounders in the theater, the first thing that came to my mind with the Oreo-eating scene was “deus ex machina” — the device by which some ancient Greek tragedians (most notably Euripides) would, when they’d written themselves into a plot corner, have an actor portraying one of the Greek gods lowered to the stage via a contraption employing ropes and pulleys to set the other characters straight.

              I saw an interview with Matt Damon regarding the filming of Rounders. He said that on the first day of shooting the poker scenes with Malkovich, after JM came out with that weird Russian accent, when the director called “cut!”, the crew and others on the set broke into applause and cheering. When Malkovich glanced across the table at Damon and saw the look on his face, he said, “Pretty bad, huh? Truth is, I’m a terrible actor.”

              Well “terrible actor,” I dunno. I’ve heard those who came up with Malkovich at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago say that some of the most powerful performances they’d ever seen were given by Malkovich on stage. But stage acting and screen acting employ different thespian muscles, and the two don’t always translate

              Plus there’s frequently a fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous — a line Malkovich isn’t shy about bounding across. 🙂

              1. Ha! I’ve never heard that story. Great stuff!

                I can certainly see how he would be a great stage actor, but hasn’t been able to temper those instincts for the screen. Your last paragraph is on the money, though I would say it’s the line between quiet and camp. Malkovich doesn’t really know how to give a powerful performance without straying into camp, so it really limits his range. Then again, he received an Oscar nomination for…In the Line of Fire?!? I guess camp is sometimes rewarded.

                Makes me think of Ian McDiarmid: great theater actor, but known for his campiest performance as Palpatine. Still, McDiarmid has shown he has plenty of range on screen and that’s he’s just not very interested in roles where he doesn’t get to ham it up. He’d much rather be on stage.

                Hey, did you ever watch Hanna? You really need to get on that! Got any new suggestions for me?

              2. I’ve seen Oppenheimer twice. (My younger son came to town last weekend and was counting on watching it with me, so I went to see it again.) Other than that, I haven’t seen anything new of any great merit, at least since I went to Master Gardener a couple months back. (I see that Schrader has identified Master Gardener as the third in a trilogy with First Reformed and The Card Counter.) I also recently re-watched two of his ’90s films, Light Sleeper and Affliction.

                As much as I adore Margot Robbie for her talent and beauty, no way am I going to see Barbie. 🙂

                I’ve been remiss in missing Hanna, but promise to get to it soon, maybe tonight. Did you ever get around to watching Todd Haynes’s Carol?

          2. By the way, we Jews accept “honorary Jews” all the time. You’ll get an honorary degree if you go to enough Jewish holiday dinners. We’d be happy to have another lawyer!

    1. I have one last suggestion, although it may not be directly applicable to PCC(E)’s case since the organization in question deals mainly with books that have been cancelled because of supposedly objectionable content in the book itself, not because of the identity of the author, but there’s a new publishing house out there named Heresy Press that specializes in books that have been rejected because of wokeness ( I’m not sure how successful it’s been so far but it has some fairly big names on the board-Pinker and Goldstein, Haidt, Nadine Strossen, and Randall Kennedy.

  3. When identifying with people of other demographics becomes the #1 cultural sin, we’ve pretty much lost everything the Civil Rights movement fought for. Ironically, this rollback is being done by people who ludicrously call themselves “progressives.”

    1. Hi, a Bengali here. I have had sweets from Mr. Das’s shop while I lived in Kolkata. I liked his sponge Rosogolla and loved his chocolate Sandesh.

      Anyway, very sad that you had to face this. I suggest that you get your book published with an Indian publisher. Once you have a book in publication and in stores for a year or two, you can get it republished in the US/UK without trouble. Won’t that be the case?

      Many Bengalis will be overjoyed to see a book like this exist. Please work on it. Don’t give up.

      And, I and most Bengalis and Indians I know don’t care about cultural appropriation. There are a 1.4 billion of us, and we don’t really care how some close minded westerners will see us even when wrongly portrayed.

      And your book sounds like a fun one, far from any appropriation.

      Please consider publishing here.

      1. I’d be delighted to publish the book in India. I submitted it to one publisher (Tulika), but they said no. I don’t know other publishers of children’s books in India, and of course I’d have to find an illustrator, preferably an Indian one. If you know of Indian publishers who do children’s books, please let me know by email.

        My favorite of his sweets is sonpapri, which is fantastic. I visited his factory in Bengaluru and watched them making that and other sweets. His are the best I’ve tried in India.

  4. When the guy does not have the guts to tell you for such a long time, I guess that tells you something about him. Maybe someone needs to write a book about bigotry in the publishing business. Good luck with getting that published.

  5. I have a few author friends, some successful, and the entire industry is in an ideological lock as far as they can tell. With no way out. Self publishing is the only way out, but they are surprised that it is taking off very slowy.

  6. On the bright side, this is liberating, opening up subjects for writing such as NASCAR racing, banjo music, mud wrestling, ketchup, monster trucks, and other normative social oppressions that the privileged bourgeois property of whiteness allows – as a “creator” of the world – creating society.

    And think of the harm this avoids – it’s good for society overall Marxism oops I hope no one heard that.

    Personally, I think the mud wrestling is the way to go, but that’s just me.

  7. I’m sorry to hear about this. There is clearly a cultural disorder overtaking the world, one that slices and dices by every imaginable criterion: color, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, ability, position on the autism spectrum disorder continuum, political affiliation, height, weight, age, educational level, neighborhood, language, … . The logical conclusion is that each individual is but an intersection of one, alone, able only to relate to oneself. Individualism at its limit. Each person an island. No one person has access to another, as no two people occupy the same intersectional box. Adopting the practices of another constitutes a forbidden “appropriation.” What have we come to?

  8. You’re being far too kind to the agent. The situation may not be their fault, but to ghost you like that for *years* and not apprise you of the situation is inexcusable.

    1. That was my first reaction as well. After reading that letter, I said aloud: “what a dick!” Obviously, I assumed he was a male, though Jerry didn’t indicate the gender.

    1. Maybe Jerry can state that he is a transracial Indian and anybody that does not agree with this is a obviously a white nationalist.

  9. You can publish it yourself. Amazon makes it easy through their Kindle arm. I’ve self-published two novels, which do pretty well. A friend has self-published all ten (or is it eleven?) of his, and they do VERY well. I agree this is very sad. You may get one or two annoying reviewers who decide to take up the cultural appropriation line, but unless you get very unlucky and the first couple of reviews are like that (and I don’t think most readers would care that you’re white and the subject is not), it should do OK. (One way to boost good reviews is to make sure friends buy it first. I might even buy it and review it, even though I don’t have children.)

      1. A warning about Ebooks/Kindle. I read all of ‘Game of Thrones’ on Kindle. However, I ended up buying (used of course) that actual paper books. Why? Because I could not get the maps on Kindle. This limitation may or may not have been resolved.

    1. A warning about Ebooks/Kindle. I read all of ‘Game of Thrones’ on Kindle. However, I ended up buying (used of course) that actual paper books. Why? Because I could not get the maps on Kindle. This limitation may or may not have been resolved.

      1. I buy all my media in physical copies. Even music. I still buy most of my music on CDs and transfer them to my phone and old iPod. Although Amazon does not use DRM on their digital music files, so I will often buy digital copies from them. NEVER. PURCHASE. FROM. ITUNES.

        I now own about 1500 blurays and 4K disc’s, and that collection grows every week. I saw the fractured streaming services coming years before they happened and started collecting then. Any piece of media you want in perpetuity should be on a physical medium of some sort, be it disc or an SSD (if on a hard drive, that drive should be an SSD, as the mechanics of an HDD break down over time).

        We now live in a world where even one of the greatest movies of all time, Oldboy, is not available on any streaming service even for rental in the US. An absolute travesty!

  10. In meta-analysis, the file drawer problem is the missing unpublished studies from well-executed experiments or data analysis that were rejected because the results don’t conform to expectations (e.g., no significant effect of a drug on a disease) and so can’t be considered in a systematic review. A kind of Rumsfeldian known unknown.

    I had never thought about this in other areas of publishing. Jerry’s book must be part of a vast unpublished ecosystem of literature that goes unread for reasons unrelated to the quality of the ideas or the writing. That’s a big loss for everyone.

  11. 1) the agent doing absolutely nothing for years is inexcusable. He should be named so others do not find their time wasted as well. I mean that in all seriousness. Name him as a favor to other authors.
    2) use a pen-name. Plenty of people change their name to make them more marketable across the entertainment spectrum.

  12. Yes, well, you aren’t a cat either. Keep looking for a publisher. There might still be one in the US who isn’t completely tainted.

    1. If the author identifies, that would be key – social construction –

      Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus)

      Paws Be Upon Him!

  13. Really disappointing, especially given the endorsement of Mr Das himself.

    Maybe our host needs to identify as a cat to get the book published…?!

  14. A sad story. Those who call this “cultural appropriation” do not understand the wonderful potential here. It will open children to the exploration of other people and cultures. Being entertaining and amusing, it provides a great incentive for the child to explore on their own. I am sure you could find a family in India that would be happy to “adopt” you and give you an Indian name and, if necessary, address. Fly under the radar. My philosophy is that one cannot lie to swindle are agrandize one’s self, but if it’s just a matter of getting out from under other people’s shit, have at it. The ultimate winners are the children who would otherwise be unfairly deprived of a wonderful opportunity. Good luck.

  15. Jerry,

    A few suggestions:

    1) Try to get it published in India (ironically, that may work).
    2) Self publish
    3) Self publish as an e-book.
    4) Substack it — chapter by chapter with the illustrations.

    Good luck. I am sorry you are down.

  16. Is what you experienced an outcome of the ‘woke’ wave that seems to be sweeping Britain and other countries? Are people simply unable to read a story any more, without looking for whether it fits into – or falls out of – some twisted social engineering narrative? Have publishers (and agents) in Britain today never heard of Rudyard Kipling or E M Forster?

  17. What is it about these people that they can’t see that what amounts to reverse racism is just another kind of racism? You were right in your earlier post to support Martin Luther King in his wish for all people to be thought of as equal, and treated equally, regardless of their race.
    This from someone who knows what rejection feels like. I spent thousands of pounds researching and submitting my two novels to literary agents. I made at least 300 submissions over eighteen years before realising that the books weren’t publishable. This wasn’t because of the quality of writing – I have a master’s degree in creative writing, and after eighteen years of perfecting my writing and rewriting, I know I can write. The problem is that I linked genes and behaviour in the stories – something you just can’t do even if as in my case my argument is that we need to challenge and confront the genetic influence. Why didn’t I self-publish? I just think that what I’m saying is important and I want the ideas to be available to the widest possible audience. Now I’m trying to get my ideas across in a series of podcasts.
    I hope you manage to get Mr Das the recognition he deserves. I’ll wish you luck, and you can wish me luck too 😊

    1. Martin Luther King never called for all people to be treated equally regardless of race. His “dream” in 1963 was that “my children” (by synecdoche all Negro children) would be judged by the content of their character and not by the colour of their skin. This just means he wanted white people to be prevented from pre-judging black people as feckless or whatever before looking at their characters. White people otherwise weren’t his concern. It is a historical mistake to paint King as an advocate against such zero-sum policies as affirmative action, quotas, and reverse racism. He explicitly supported the first two, knowing that poor white people would be disadvantaged as blacks took their low-paying jobs. (HIs remedy for that, to avoid a race war, was to vastly expand the civil service so all would have jobs.) The third hadn’t been coined yet, I think because no one imagined that quotas would ever catch on.

      Leftists have stiffly rejected the notion of a colour-blind King, calling it a right-wing trope intended to undermine affirmative action. They made this point in many media pieces during the Supreme Court’s deliberations on AA.

      This matters because wherever society can get away with it (e.g., all over the arts), it is giving explicit preference to people who tick intersectional boxes because it seems to be good business. King would approve that his ideas for race preference have made such headway. At a much lower level of achievement than yours, Peter, if you watch TV commercials you would think half the country was black and/or homosexual, the other half Asian women. This is perhaps trivial in the grand scheme of things but preference does kill the careers of real-life straight white actors who can’t convincingly play half of a black gay couple for 15 seconds (and would infuriate the gay actors anyway.) Be nice to your waiter.

      I do wish both you and Jerry luck getting published.

      1. “It is giving explicit preference to people who tick intersectional boxes because it seems to be good business”

        What is or is not good business is irrelevant. ‘Woke’ rules all (certainly in book publishing). Consider the controversy over the girl (Keziah Daum) who wore a ‘Chinese’ (actually Manchu) prom dress. The issue was not money, but the alleged crime of ‘cultural appropriation’.

      2. Thanks for your kind wishes, Leslie.
        I have to say I am no expert on MLK; I was reacting to a comment of Jerry’s, which I may have misinterpreted. My concern with “affirmative action” is that if we react to what’s gone before, then we risk a backlash, then a backlash to the backlash, and the whole thing starts to cycle ad infinitum. Of course, we should acknowledge the mistakes and atrocities of the past, but there has to be a point where we leave it all alone. From the philosophical/evolutionary position I take, we evolved to have an instinct for what scientists and psychologists call in-group/out-group behaviour which underpins racism and which I think of as anachronistic hangover behaviour from when we lived in tribes on the African plains in the Pleistocene. We should confront this behaviour wherever we find it – which underpins the case I’m making, which is that we should think of everyone as equal regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, sex and religious disposition (even if, to rationalists like me, it seems absurd). On the face of it this might sound naïve and simplistic, but I didn’t make the universe and we have to live with it as we find it. To requoting Jerry’s Vonnegut quote “so it goes”.
        Just don’t get me started on the Woke Tribe versus the Traditionalist Tribe!

  18. You are too kind and too complacent. I’d blast the agent out of the galaxy for holding this up for so long. What about publishing it serially in a children’s magazine? (under a PC pen name of course).

  19. Sad to hear your issues. As for the illustrations, find someone who is good with the AI image processes. They could turn out images quickly with editing with your inputs. Of course you run into another “controversial” issue with AI art…

    1. Well…Jerry’s post was about the metaphorical death of his book by whiteness; as ridiculous as that is. So I think his reference is apt.

  20. I find all this beyond annoying!!! As a person living in a multiple-cat household, I’ve been looking forward to your book ever since you first wrote about it. In recent years there’s been such a movement of inclusiveness in children’s books–including children of various races and cultures in books–but suddenly a book like this is excluded? That is nonsense, just like all the cultural appropriation idiocy. I hope someone will think outside the “idiot box,” you will find an illustrator, and it will be published in time for Mr. Das to read it.

  21. This is both depressing and enraging. The book sounded delightful, the theme positive, everything right. What sort of message does this send to children? Stay in your own lane: THEY are different from YOU. What next? White people shouldn’t read about other cultures? Our thoughts might be too uncontrolled, we might see similarities instead of differences.

    Reverse racism indeed. I am so, so sorry.

    1. I find it strange that cultural appropriation is considered bad by some people – yet those same people are only too willing to project their cultural sensibilities onto historical characters and situations.

    2. Stay in your own lane: THEY are different from YOU.

      Yes they don’t even realize the implications

      If a white western author is incapable, through birth circumstances, of understanding from any observations, experiences, reading etc the lives of an Indian person to write about it, then it suggests that an Indian authors attempts to communicate anything about their lives to non-Indians would also fail. It’s just some unbridgeable epistemic gap so…each culture, just stay in your own echo chamber.

      It’s such a hopeless vision .

  22. Let me offer a few suggestions that I hope will help. In the UK, you might want to contact J.K. Rowling (the very famous author) for the names of publishers who be willing take your work. She has actually written a book about (of all things) book publishing in the UK. She may or may not be able to help you. In the US, I suggest contacting Bari Weiss and/or Nellie Bowles for names of publishers in the US who will accept your work. They seem to move in fairly elite NYC circles. They may or may not be able to help you.

  23. Sounds like a lovely book. Perhaps you could find an upper division Illustration student who would do the work as a senior thesis project, for the potential exposure and in hopes of future royalties. You’d have to do some work ‘interviewing’ (getting single illustrations and finding someone whose style fits your vision). You might even be able to find one at an Indian university which would increase your chances of finding a mainstream publisher and their chances of eventually getting royalties.

  24. If memory serves, there’s a publishing firm called Skyhorse that’s notable for publishing books gutless publishers shrink from, such as Woody Allen’s autobiography. I see from Skyhorse’s website that it has a children’s book division too:

    It might be worth considering after you’ve landed an illustrator. Best of luck, and may you triumph over the cringing forces of priggery.

  25. I’m afraid that if I said how I feel about this I would be kicked out for profanity. Shameful doesn’t begin to describe it.

  26. Quick search brings up some names of Indian publishers of children’s books:
    Tulika Publishers:
    Pratham Books:
    Karadi Tales:
    Scholastic India:
    HarperCollins India (Children’s Division
    Duckbill Books:
    Penguin Random House India (Children’s Books):
    Hachette India (Children’s Books):
    Maple Press:
    Good luck.

  27. I was going to suggest that Jerry simply explain that he was born in the wrong body, and his real identity is that of an Indian, or a cat, or possibly an Indian cat. But then I remembered that this is precisely what happened in the 1960s, to the psychologist Dr. Richard Alpert. Remember him? He and Tim Leary worked together on the promising effects of psychedelic drugs—and in due course Dr. Alpert became Baba Ram Dass.
    [My own experiences with psychedelics were mostly positive.]

  28. So sorry this has happened to your book, Jerry! So frustrating.

    Hang in there! It only takes one “yes”! I think it will come.

    Thoughts; but no prayers!

  29. A truly disheartening story, but thank you for sharing it, as detailed, first-hand accounts of real-world consequences of these forces illustrate their realness to those who’ve merely heard of them but haven’t encountered such accounts.

    I agree that the agent was unprofessional, but at least tried to atone by sending the apology. I hope this has given them something to think about, and that they, to appropriate the phrase, do better.

  30. Is Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha going to be recalled? Is Hesse going to be posthumously canceled?

    We live in times of rampant idiocy.

  31. I understand why it would be difficult to self publish when you’d have to find and hire an illustrator, and it looks like you may have received enough good leads that you won’t need to consider that route, but if you explore other options and are still stymied, perhaps you could set up a GoFundMe or Kickstarter page to enable you to afford an illustrator. As far as locating one, whyevolutionistrue might be a good place to start. I’ll bet there are artists who would love to work with you on this and if you put out a call you might get some great submissions–and fodder for some good posts.

    I have a feeling you’re going to prevail one way or another, and I hope you do; I want to see that book!

  32. I have a friend who is an artist. He suggests AI generated art. DaVinci is one program. Loath to suggest it, but in your situation time is an important factor. Mr. Das would take great pleasure in seeing it completed.

    1. Other image programs include DALL-E and Midjourney. There are many others. I have only worked with DALL-E which is not a recommendation / endorsement.

  33. My friends’ son is a young freelance illustrator whose work has appeared in a published children’s book, “A Thought is a Thought”.
    You may want to contact him
    Your book sounds delightful and needs to see the light of day because my two grandsons, presently three and six months, would love a story about silly cats getting in trouble and then saving the day.

  34. I feel you are being generous to theagent who ought to have said this up front. It may be that no publisher is inteeested but how would you know if they do not see it? Would an Indian publisher be more receptive? It is more the distribution. If the illustrator were Indian? Could someone from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Pakistan write such a book or would that also be cultural appropriation?!

  35. What a big disappointment! I was hoping it would get published and was ready to order a bunch of them for the youngsters in the family. I feel a lot of people, besides you and Mr. Das, are losing out, because of this myopic way of thinking.

  36. Yours is not the first book to reference cats from another country or culture. I expect you have heard of the wonderful “Hairy Maclary” books, by Lynley Dodd, author and illustrator. Here is her first book, solely as illustrator from 1978. Someone has put it into a YT video. Is now cancelled ? Apparently not the Wikipedia article notes the 50th anniversary edition was published in 2023

  37. You say that “in fiction these days—particularly young adult and children’s fiction—you can’t write about one culture if you belong to another”, but I suspect that isn’t quite right. I don’t know enough about the publishing world to be able to prove it, but I suspect that if you were black you would have had no problem publishing a children’s book set in India; or, indeed, anywhere else. Do black people — or “people of color” in general — ever get in trouble for “cultural appropriation”? It may happen, but I’ve certainly never heard of it. (In particular I can’t imagine they would ever get in trouble for writing about white people…).

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