A cartoon based on my difficulties in getting my children’s book published

September 8, 2023 • 8:30 am

I’ve kvetched about my difficulty of getting my children’s book, “Mr. Das and His Fifty Cats,” published, apparently on the grounds that a white guy like me isn’t allowed to write about an Indian man and his love of animals (the story is fiction but based on fact).  Such writing is “cultural appropriation”, Jack! And criticizing it or rejecting it on those grounds alone is an insane example of performative wokeness.

Well, reader Arthur from Australia read about my travails and took action:

I shared your saga of getting your cat book published with Phil Somerville (Australian cartoonist). He said this gave him the idea for the cartoon below.

I hope you enjoy it.

Somerville is a well-known Aussie cartoonist (his website is here and his biography is here.  Have a look at his cartoons, which are very good.

I put his cartoon below; I enjoyed the hell out of it as it’s hilarious and is a snarky take on my own situation. I hope you like it, too. But first you have to embiggen it.  Click to enlarge the cartoon below (click twice in succession, with a pause between)

25 thoughts on “A cartoon based on my difficulties in getting my children’s book published

  1. Out of the park!

    … out of the dog park even!

    BTW I found this book:

    How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America
    Karen Brodkin
    Rutgers U. Press
    ISBN-10 ‎081352590X
    ISBN-13 ‎978-0813525907

    Haven’t opened it yet – (don’t judge).

  2. Not a s**t show in hell are you gonna transition to a dog, not gonna happen.
    Although it could be the cartoon holds a smidgen of wisdom…
    … you self identify as Indian, an instant fix for an insanity.

        1. laingholm suggested you identify as an Indian for purposes of the book.
          This violates current norms about who can identify as who.
          Identifying as the opposite sex, OK. Identifying as another race, at least if you are white – not OK.
          As for why that would be – maybe it’s because there are strong stereotypes about women and men, and they are treated differently in our culture (e.g. separate bathrooms and locker rooms). So that gives people a way to understand the concept of identifying as the opposite sex.

            1. I read your original blog post about the book.
              The way that agent treated you was disgusting, and dishonest in a passive kind of way.
              But there’s an issue that’s a lot more real than “cultural appropriation”.
              That is, people have become much more aware of hoarding, including animal hoarding, as a common and serious problem in recent years. It’s now a separate disorder in the DSM-V. People see TV shows about hoarders, read newspaper articles about hoarders, maybe live near someone whose house has 20 cats in it and causes a lot of problems.
              Having a lot of animals doesn’t by itself make someone an animal hoarder. The difference is that an animal hoarder has too many to take care of well; they’re crowded, or there’s a lot of cat crap in the house, or they get sick in unsanitary conditions, or they don’t get good veterinary care, even though the hoarder believes the animals are doing fine. Or, the many animals keep family and friends away, isolating the hoarder. Or the hoarder’s health is endangered.
              Whether or not Birendra Das would have been considered a hoarder, your story would have to differentiate him very clearly from all the hoarders people hear about, and people might question it all the same.
              Birendra Das apparently *was* one of the leaders of one of the rare animal rescue organizations in India, and it sounds like he at least had the money to take care of his personal 50 cats. But still, one wonders.
              India has very little by way of animal welfare organizations, that seems to be more a first-world thing. I found out about this after hearing from a teenager in India, who was living with his mother who had 8 dogs and was definitely a hoarder. She couldn’t resist rescuing street dogs, but they were untrained, un-spayed and neutered, barked a lot of course, and drove her son, who was forced to take care of them, into incredible desperation. He would post things online that were like long screams of pain. People’s first thought was “take the dogs to the SPCA”, but that option wasn’t available in India.
              Maybe your agent did have concerns like that, but knew your feelings about “cultural appropriation” and other things PC, and used that as a pretext. They had been dishonest and evasive with you in other ways, after all.
              I wonder if there have been any successful children’s books about someone who had a huge number of animals, depicting it in a positive way.
              There’s no reason a children’s book shouldn’t transport the child to another country. We have historical novels after all, telling people about distant times rather than distant places. And we are all foreigners in relation to the past before our lifetimes.

  3. Hats off to Phil Sommerville! Oh, wait—that phrase is a microaggression, inasmuch as it
    marginalizes those who don’t wear a hat.

  4. Glad that artist made cartoon specific enough to JC’s situation, but generic enough to include other who are undoubtedly in similar situations.

    Loved calling out barking as “speech shaming.”

  5. Just put Mr Das or other as coauthor or whatever they do for ghost-written celebrity books. Definitely a violation of the policy of only listing as authors those who did the work and always adding the PI. Or self publish?

  6. A friend of mine had trouble getting a publisher for his own YA book, so he created his own press, moonjumperpress.com. The web site indicates a possibility of publishing other people’s children’s and YA books. No guarantees, of course, but he is a cat lover.

  7. I recently saw a post that notes that Joyce Carol Oates credits Alice in Wonderland as being the most influential book in her life. That set me wondering: Is there any way “Alice” could be published today? Really, a nerdy, middle aged male math professor, claiming to understand the psyche of a pre-teen girl? Oates claimed she identified with Alice, but that obviously can’t be true.

    1. Surely it could be published. Matt Walsh’s book “Johnny the Walrus” has sold pretty well, and it’s still available on Amazon.

  8. The further your tale is from reality, the less likely you’d encounter objections about cultural appropriation – or animal hoarding.
    But your tale is actually closer to reality than is usual. Mr. Das’ identity isn’t disguised, and it sounds like it’s taken straight from reality in many other ways.
    That has an obvious appeal – being part reality would give it a firmer hold on the reader’s imagination. And perhaps it could be modified to be more acceptable.

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