Some people believe that racism in the United States is dead. Others, it never really existed. Still others, if racism lives, mention of it divides Americans between oppressed and oppressors. The result? Books are being tossed off library shelves or censored before they get there.

Take Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Yas Imamura, for children 6 to 9. The book relates Tokuda-Hall’s parents meeting at an incarceration (concentration) camp for Japanese-Americans during World War Two. The New York Times reported (5-6-23) that Scholastic, which distributes books to 90 percent of the nation’s schools, agreed to license it—but with a caveat. 

Tokuda-Hall, in her author’s note, had to eliminate references to racism. 

Did Washington believe that American citizens of Japanese birth or descent would undermine their country’s mainland defenses? Inside government and out, fear of the Yellow Peril ran high. (Some Germans and Italians also were imprisoned.)

Tokuda protested: “If we all know that the largest children’s publisher in the country, the one with the most access to schools, is . . . asking authors to change their works to accommodate those kinds of demands, there’s no way you as a marginalized author can find an audience.”

Scholastic apologized and offered to publish the book, author’s note intact. 

Tokuda said no thanks.

Scholastic’s original position reflected far-right politicians (anti-“woke” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis leads the way) and activists seeking to hide or eliminate books mentioning racism. The far-left also seeks to exercise censorial power by keeping certain words—the n-word, for example—out of books. They believe such words can bruise the pysches of African Americans and other ethnic folks.

B******t. Wait, I’m self-censoring. Bullshit!

As a Jew, I want antisemitic slurs reported loud and clear. This enables all America to shine a light on a dark reality and strengthen our resolve to provide everyone a place in the Land of the Free.

Epithets appear in my new novel, The Short (Pun Intended) Redemptive Life of Little Ned. In the early decades of the twentieth century, children of three immigrant Jewish families struggle to realize the American dream. Antisemitism provides one obstacle.

During a schoolyard fight in San Francisco, children of working-class Irish families hurl insults at the undersized but tough Nate Cohen: “little Jew,” “Yid pygmy,” “kike.” In New York’s Harlem, a gang of Italian boys chases Jake Orlinsky. They scream “Fuckin’ yid,” “sheeny,” “dirty Jew.”

Back to Nate’s fight: One spectator shouts, “Jew’s as bad as a nigger.” My writing n****r would have been a copout. Context is critical.

As to antisemitism, it existed in America since Jews first arrived in the Colonies. Does antisemitism still exist here? 

Jews’ personal revelations affirm it. So does the media, including the April/May 2023 AARP The Magazine. “The Oldest Hatred” features an interview with renowned professor and author Deborah Lipstadt. The article begins, “Some Americans may have thought this prejudice was fading away, but it has gained momentum once again.” Lipstadt warns, “One mistake we make is to fail to take it seriously. . . Antisemitism comes from all places on the political spectrum.” 

Covering one’s eyes or ears can hide reality only for a moment. Writers of fiction, journalists and historians have a duty to reveal truth. Nothing enflames the book burners more. 

The Short (Pun Intended) Redemptive Life of Little Ned is now available in softcover or e-book from, and Or order from your favorite bookstore.

Found this post interesting? Pass it on. 


  1. jean wright on May 12, 2023 at 11:04 am

    Wow. You have hit a nerve, David. Racism and antisemitism are alive and very well. As a Jew with Japanese sons, grandsons and granddaughters, I see, hear, and feel it all – every. single. day. Whether is is the discomfort of a huge Xmas tree taking over the lobby of my multi-racial/ethnic/cultural apartment building, or the joy of two of my grandchildren choosing University of Hawaii (an Asian equivalent of an HBCU), racism, antisemitism, and denial (do not forget denial) are omnipresent in my life. If we want it to stop we must take the risk to educate those who are ignorant of what is really happening in our world. Kudos to Christina Jefferson, the Black, Jewish, Lesbian DEI director of the 49ers.

    • David Perlstein on May 12, 2023 at 11:22 am

      You are right, Jean. Racism in any form can’t be swept under the rug. Well, let’s say it shouldn’t be.

  2. Sandy Lipkowitz on May 12, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    I grew up in German Protestant Reading, PA. in the 1950’s. The Klan burned crosses on the hill and my parents didn’t buy a house in an area, near friends of theirs (who weren’t Jewish), because my parents were told I wouldn’t get invited to BD parties, etc. because we were Jewish. I always got picked on around Christmas etc. Laws may have changed about buying and selling property, However the racisms, hatreds still exist. Maybe there was a lid on for a while since it wasn’t politically correct to say these things in public. However Trump took the lid off that box and the snakes won’t go back in. Proud boys etc. After all, according to Trump, (Charlottesville) there are nice people on both sides. ,

    • David Perlstein on May 12, 2023 at 1:20 pm

      A sad but apt story, Sandy. Making believe Mac ism and anti-Semitism don’t exist won’t make them go away. And Trump certainly tapped into that.

Leave a Comment