Recently, news surfaced that editors have been leading efforts to alter the works of the beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, to make them more politically correct. The changes would include removing potentially offensive content and altering character descriptions to better fit modern sensibilities. However, this kind of censorship is dangerous and sets a concerning precedent for the literary world.
What’s not being discussed is the pedigree of the woman that led this effort who styles herself as a ‘non-binary, asexual, polyamorous relational anarchist on the autism spectrum’ led the editors who spent months taming the works of legendary children’s author Roald Dahl on their quest not to offend. Jo Ross-Barrett claims that the digital book burning of Dahl’s writings was meant to remove material deemed ‘insensitive’ and ‘non-inclusive,’ and was carried out by her group Inclusive Minds a consultant firm located in the United Kingdom. The organization says its purpose is making mainstream literature ‘represent every child.’
As the DailyMail reports:
Ross-Barrett, who recently departed Inclusive Minds to become a full time DEI professional, describes herself as a ‘non-binary, asexual, polyamorous relationship anarchist who is on the autism spectrum.’
A former project manager at the woke firm, National Review reported that Ross-Barrett posted on LinkedIn in 2022 that she was working on a secret project involving the work of a well-known children’s author.
In a profile of Barrett that remains on the Inclusive Minds sight, ‘they/them’ is described as a ‘writer and editor with a passion for championing inclusive content and policies.’
Barrett’s previously work has been published in Bi-ible, an anthology about bisexuality and related identifies, and AZE Journal, an online magazine for ‘aromantic-spectrum, asexual-spectrum and agender people.’
The profile continues: ‘Jo is an autistic, non-binary, asexual, polyamorous relationship anarchist.
‘They work with Inclusive Minds to help authors and publishers make their books more authentically representative of marginalized groups, and have provided workshops and talks at A Place at the Table 2020 and the UK Asexuality Conference 2019.’
A group of inclusivity ambassadors and sensitivity readers – aged eight to 30 -reported to Ross-Barrett as the team worked to cleanse the collective works of Dahl.
Censorship of any kind is concerning, but particularly when it comes to literature. Books have always been a way for people to explore new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. They have the power to challenge our beliefs and make us think critically about the world around us. When books are censored, this power is taken away. Furthermore, the idea of altering a classic author’s works to fit modern sensibilities is a slippery slope. If we start censoring works from the past, where do we stop? Do we edit Shakespeare to remove potentially offensive content? Do we rewrite history books to be more palatable to modern audiences? The answer is no. Literature should be a reflection of the time in which it was written, and should be preserved as such.
Additionally, the idea of altering a character’s description to fit a specific identity or label is troubling. While it’s important to have diverse representation in literature, it’s equally important to allow readers to interpret characters and stories for themselves. If we start editing characters to fit specific identities or labels, we limit the reader’s ability to connect with them in their own way.
The idea of altering Roald Dahl’s works specifically is particularly concerning. Dahl’s stories have been beloved by children for generations, and are an important part of our literary history. By altering his works, we risk erasing a part of our cultural heritage. The literary world must protect the freedom of expression and resist censorship in all its forms. We must allow readers to interpret works for themselves, and preserve our cultural heritage for future generations to enjoy.