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Does 'Go the F to sleep' deserve the backlash?

When the gag book Go The F*** to Sleep first showed up as a viral social media meme, it was an instant winner, earning the book monster sales before it was even published.

Many parents saw themselves in the weary protagonist dad who just can't get his daughter to sleep - and in the potty-mouthed interior monologue.

And, now, the next step in the life cycle of a hit: the backlash.

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A CNN writer has written a piece which slams Mansbach's book for a wide range of reasons, mostly because there are children out there whose parents swear at them. And because a lot of children just don't get read to at all.

CNN included a biographical note that the writer, Karen Spears Zacharias is also the author of the forthcoming memoir, "The Shelter of Mockingbirds: The Murder of 3-Year-Old Karly Sheehan," which may or may not have something to do with her argument that the book, "accurately portrays the hostile environment in which too many children grow up."

While she does throw in qualifiers like this: "Nobody is suggesting that there's a connection between Adam Mansbach's book and child abuse or child neglect....," she also raises concerns like this one:

"'Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos,' says Dr. David Arredondo... an expert on child development.. It is hard to imagine this kind of humour being tolerated by any of the marginalized groups Arredondo cited."

There's also a backlash to this backlash. On this last point, one blogger, who called the CNN post "the most ridiculous example of privileged, upper middle class guilt I think I've ever seen," writes:

"Good point. This fictional child being read a story by his or her fictional parent, neither of whom actually exist, is a lot like these marginalized groups who have been beaten, discriminated against at a governmental level, prejudiced against throughout history, and murdered in huge numbers."

This piece comes on the heels of other pointed criticism. Author Katie Roiphe had a go, suggesting that the book exposes "yuppie parents' sexlessness, self-pity, and repressed rage," according to the Slate headline.

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Another line of backlash thinking is about how the harsh language simply makes readers uncomfortable. Canadian parent blogger Annie Urban recently explored her feelings of unease around the tone of the book, writing that none of the "tactics" - wanting a toy, a drink of water or a cuddle - are "maliciously intended actions that deserve a response such as "Go The F**k To Sleep," even if we are sometimes thinking that on the inside."

Are we reading too much into this slender volume? Do these criticisms resonate with you?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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