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Does Aung San Suu Kyi belong in a children's book of heroic women, 'Rebel Girls'?

Does Aung San Suu Kyi belong in a children's book of heroic women, 'Rebel Girls'?
Aung San Suu Kyi, shown Nov. 27, has come under fire for her inaction on Myanmar's brutal violence against its Rohingya minority, (EFE/Shutterstock)

The authors of the bestselling, crowd-funded children's book “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” are facing calls to remove Aung San Suu Kyi from future editions. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Myanmar’s head of government has come under fire for her silence and inaction regarding the country’s violent crackdown on its Rohingya minority, with more than 640,000 fleeing the country in 2017.

The Guardian reports that the authors, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, are considering removing Suu Kyi from future editions of the book, which features just 100 “extraordinary women.”

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The children’s book tells the stories of notable, accomplished women in fairy-tale style, and it includes illustrated portraits of its subjects. Other women honored in the book include Queen Elizabeth I, Serena Williams, Frida Kahlo and Jane Austen.

“We realized that 95% of the books and TV shows we grew up with lacked girls in prominent positions,” the authors wrote on its Kickstarter page in 2016. “We did some research and discovered that this didn't change much over the past 20 years, so we decided to do something about it.”

Suu Kyi might have seemed like a natural fit at the time; she was a pro-democracy activist who spent 15 years under house arrest, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

But recently, Suu Kyi has drawn withering criticism for her failure to condemn violence by Myanmar’s military against the Muslim Rohingya in the country’s Rakhine State. Soldiers of the mostly Buddhist country have killed, raped or maimed thousands of Rohingya, according to international human rights groups. More than 640,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

In Suu Kyi's section in “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls,” the authors write, “She won the Nobel peace prize, and inspired millions of people in her own country and across the world, all without leaving her house.”

On the book's Facebook page, one parent of a child called Suu Kyi's inclusion in the book “absolutely disgusting,” while another wrote, “I hope the publishers issue another edition, updating her fall from grace over the Rohingya massacre.”

Favilli and Cavallo seemed open to the idea, saying in a statement, “We’re monitoring the situation closely and we don’t exclude the idea of removing her from future reprints.”

One of the most successful literary projects in the history of crowd-funding site Kickstarter, the campaign for "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” launched in 2016, with Favilli and Cavallo hoping to raise $40,000 to have the book illustrated and printed.

It reached its goal in 30 hours, eventually collecting pledges totaling more than $675,000. A sequel was published in November 2017, featuring sections on Beyoncé, J.K. Rowling and Guatemalan political activist Rigoberta Menchú.

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