The bookshop chain known as Líra Könyv in Hungary has been fined by the government for selling a children’s book that depicts the day in the life of a child with same-sex parents. Government officials are condemning the bookstore for featuring the families so prominently in their store.
The picture book is called “Micsoda család!”, and is a Hungarian translation that combines two titles by US author Lawrence Schimel and illustrator Elīna Brasliņa. One of the original books was called “Early One Morning,” and depicted a young boy’s daily routine with his two mothers, and the other was called “Bedtime, Not Playtime!” and showed a young girl with two fathers who’s reluctant to go to bed; so basically depicting normal family life with a young child.
The chain was fined 250,000 forints, which is equivalent to around $600, by Pest County, which is the local authority for all businesses located in the areas surrounding Budapest. Pest County commissioner Richard Tarnai told a local television station that the book chain violated rules on unfair commercial practices by failing to clearly indicate that the book “contained content which deviates from the norm.”
“The book was there among other fairytale books and thus committed a violation. There is no way of knowing that this book is about a family that is different from a normal family.”
Schimel immediately took to Twitter to speak out against the Hungarian government and Tarnai in general.
“The Hungarian government is trying to normalize hate and prejudice with these concerted attacks against books like mine, which represent for kids the plural and diverse world they live in,” he exclaimed.
“The idea for the books was to celebrate queer families, to put more queer joy into the world, so that the only books available to children weren’t about conflicts”.
“In these stories, the fact that the parents are two moms or two dads is incidental to the story, as it is to the daily lives of children in rainbow families. These families don’t only experience homophobia, they also have fun,” he said.
Líra Könyv said that it would “now put up a sign warning customers that we sell books with different content than traditional ones,” as per request of the government and to avoid further fining in the middle of a global pandemic that’s impacting businesses everywhere. The book’s Hungarian distributor, Foundation for Rainbow Families, released a statement in response to this fining as well:
“Rainbow families are completely normal, ordinary families. These families haven’t had their own story book so far. That’s why we thought it was important to publish a fairytale book about them – and first of all for them.”
Schimel claimed that he “was more determined to keep trying to create books like these, that respect the intelligence of children and offer the vast, complex world to them in fun and accessible ways.”
The fine was imposed under a Hungarian law that bans all unfair trading practice, which has been known to specifically target LGBT+ rights in Hungary. In fact, this Thursday the Hungarian government will be implementing a new law which bans LGBT+ people from being featured in educational materials, or TV shows for children under 18.
It’s expected that the European Parliment will be condemning this law and calling upon the European commission to fast-track a legal case against Hungary over human rights violations and discrimination against LGBT+ people.
The Hungarian Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association has already condemned the law itself, labelling it as “unacceptable.”
“The law creates conditions for restricting freedom of the arts and speech. Several masterpieces of world and Hungarian literature that are currently used in the secondary school curriculum, including Sappho, Ovid, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, Mihály Babits and Sándor Weöres could come under the ban.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.