Hungary fines bookshop chain over picture book depicting LGBT families

Líra Könyv made to pay £600 for failing to clearly indicate the story featured ‘a family that is different than a normal family’

A bookshop chain in Hungary has been fined for selling a children’s story depicting a day in the life of a child with same-sex parents, with officials condemning the picture book for featuring such families.

The picture book, Micsoda család!, is a Hungarian translation combining two titles by US author Lawrence Schimel and illustrator Elīna Brasliņa: Early One Morning, which shows a young boy’s morning with his two mothers, and Bedtime, Not Playtime!, in which a young girl with two fathers is reluctant to go to sleep.

Reuters reported that the 250,000 forints (£600) fine was imposed on the bookshop chain Líra Könyv by Pest county, the local authority for the area surrounding Budapest.

Pest county commissioner Richard Tarnai told television station Hír TV that Líra Könyv had 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,” Tarnai said. “There is no way of knowing that this book is about a family that is different than a normal family.”

Schimel wrote on Twitter that the Hungarian government is “trying to normalise hate and prejudice with these concerted attacks against books like mine … which represent for kids the plural and diverse world they live in.”

He told the Guardian that 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 mums 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 it sold “books with different content than traditional ones”.

“Rainbow families are completely normal, ordinary families,” the book’s Hungarian distributor, Foundation for Rainbow Families, said in a statement. “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.”

Despite the events in Hungary, Schimel said he was “more determined to keep trying to create books like these – books that respect the intelligence of children and offer the vast, complex world to them, in fun and accessible ways”.

Schimel’s books will be published in the UK this autumn, in both Welsh and English.

The fine was imposed under a Hungarian law that bans unfair trade practice, but comes during a wider crackdown on LGBT rights in Hungary, under the government of prime minister Viktor Orbán.

A widely criticised new law, which bans LGBT people from featuring in educational materials or TV shows for children under 18, comes into force on Thursday. The government claims the law is intended to protect children.

On the same day, the European parliament is expected to condemn the law and urge the European Commission to fast-track a legal case against Hungary over discrimination against LGBT people.

The law has already been condemned as “unacceptable” by the Hungarian Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association, which said it “creates conditions for restricting freedom of the arts and speech”. It warned that “several masterpieces of world and Hungarian literature” currently used in the secondary school curriculum, including Sappho, Ovid, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, Mihály Babits and Sándor Weöres could come under the ban.

Earlier this year, Hungary’s government ordered that a disclaimer warning of “behaviour inconsistent with traditional gender roles” be printed in a fairytale anthology that contains some stories with LGBT themes.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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