Author Accuses Wauwatosa Library of Discrimination: ‘It’s Racist’

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — In our Two Americas series, we show you the side of America you may or may not know. The topic of racism is a topic that many shy away from. But one author says that’s why her children’s book was turned down by the Wauwatosa Public Library. It’s a charge the Wauwatosa City Attorney said he “vehemently denies.”

At the center of it all is the children’s book Coco’s courage meets the dentist.

Author: Dr. Shon Shree Lewis

Black author Shon Lewis claims she was abused by Wauwatosa Library staff when she submitted her children’s book for review. More than a year later, there is no final resolution.

Lewis says her imagination of an inspired young black girl named Coco came to life in her published series of children’s books. “That’s it, and to show the diversity of how kids get along with other cultures and support each other,” Lewis said.

With two of her adult books already accepted into the Wauwatosa Library, Lewis says she was caught off guard when her children’s book was turned down. In an email, Lewis asked why. A staff member replied, “I would highly recommend an editor.”

“What were they talking about? asked TMJ4 reporter Julia Fello. Lewis replied, “If I spelled a word in an ‘urban way.’ understandable and clear enough for a child to understand.

Lewis took his concerns to the Wauwatosa Library Board. After a second review, his book was again rejected. He cited more criteria, including the “tone” of the book.

“It’s racist, because the ‘tone’ of a book is the purpose of the book and who the character represents. Well, the character represents African American children,” Lewis said.

TMJ4 News went to the Wauwatosa Library to speak to the manager and to City Hall to speak to the city attorney. No one was available for an on-camera interview. Instead, we received a statement from the city’s communications manager saying, “We deny that the decision not to include her children’s book was racially motivated.”

Wauwatosa’s communications manager also sent us 96 pages of correspondence between Lewis, city staff, and the state’s Equal Rights Division. In it, the library manager emailed Lewis: “From a customer service perspective, I agree that [staff member] could have done a better job of relaying this information to you in his second email…I will make any necessary adjustments regarding customer service.”

Lewis’ discrimination complaint to the Equal Rights Division of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development last year is currently on appeal.

His attorney sent a demand letter to the city last month, calling for a diverse library board. Lewis said: “Even if I had an Asian girl here or a Latino girl, how safe are they going to feel as a book author about their decision not to accept the book, if ultimately the whole board is one race?”

For now, the Coco de Lewis books are available at the Shorewood Library, on AmazonBarnes & Noble and She Hopes One Day, Wauwatosa Public Library.

“Give Coco a fair chance and let the kids learn the importance of other cultures, because this is the next generation,” Lewis said.

You can read more about the Coco series of books by Dr. Shon Shree Lewis at click here.

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Lola R. McClure