New Children's Book For Adults: 'Go The [Expletive] To Sleep' Even the most loving and dedicated parents are sometimes annoyed by children who refuse to go to bed. Adam Mansbach captures that frustration in Go the [Expletive] to Sleep, a colorfully illustrated 'children's book for adults.' Some readers find the book humorous but others may be appalled. Host Michel Martin speaks with Adam Mansbach to learn more about his controversial book and what it means for parents — especially with Father's Day just around the corner. Note: this conversation references language that listeners may find offensive.
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New Children's Book For Adults: 'Go The [Expletive] To Sleep'

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New Children's Book For Adults: 'Go The [Expletive] To Sleep'

New Children's Book For Adults: 'Go The [Expletive] To Sleep'

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: And now we want to tell you about a hilarious new take on that age old problem - getting the beloved child to go to sleep. Is there a manual they slip those kids in the sandbox that teach them how to stall? If you're a parent or caregiver of a young child, you know what I'm talking about - the whining, the demands for juice, for one more hug. You can admit it, no matter how much you love the little person, doesn't it make you want to cuss?

That frustration is captured in a beautifully drawn new book by Adam Mansbach. The title of which I cannot actually tell you because it includes what most would consider as one very bad word. And Adam Mansbach is here with us. Welcome to the program. Please don't jeopardize our FCC license.


ADAM MANSBACH: I wouldn't dream of it.

MARTIN: Now, we're going to bleep it, but you tell me the title of the book and tell me how it came about.

MANSBACH: The name of the book is "Go the (beep) to Sleep." And it all really started with some sleepless nights of my own. I have a three-year-old daughter who was two then. Her name is Vivian. And one night after putting her to bed, I wrote a post on Facebook that said, look out for my forthcoming children's book, "Go the (beep) to Sleep," which I had no intention of writing at the time.

But a couple of weeks passed and I made the joke a few more times in person and sat down and wrote it.

MARTIN: This is also - this is a story about a book, but it's also an amazing story about social media because the book isn't even out yet and it's already been a number one seller on


MARTIN: How did that happen? Word of mouth, social media?

MANSBACH: Yeah. A combination of a lot of things. We were sort of in the middle of a weirdly perfect storm. I gave a reading of the book on April 23rd in Philadelphia to about 200 people at an art salon. Really just to see how the audience responded. I hadn't read the book publicly before. And at the time it was supposed to come out in October. And the response was tremendous.

And people, I think, went home and preordered it that night. So by the next morning, it was charting pretty high or pretty low, I guess you would say, on Amazon's rankings. It was number 125. Now, I'm a literary novelist. I've never even seen a number that low, you know. Like, literary fiction is supposed to be at a respectable 700,000.


MANSBACH: So, from there, things got crazy.

MARTIN: I'm going to read a short passage from the book. But I'm going to leave out the explicit words because, as I mentioned, I would like to be on the air tomorrow as well.


MARTIN: (Reading) The cats nestle close to their kittens now, the lambs have laid down with the sheep. You're cozy and warm in your bed, my dear, so, please, go the - to sleep. The windows are dark in the town, child. The whales huddle down in the deep. I'll read you...


MARTIN: I'm laughing. I'm sorry.

(Reading) I'll read you one very last book if you swear you'll go the - to sleep.

Now, were you just sitting there cracking yourself up as you worked on this?

MANSBACH: Yeah. It was pretty good. I got to say, your reading was excellent. If Samuel Jackson wasn't already doing our audio book, I would want you to do it.

MARTIN: Well, thank you very much.

MANSBACH: Yeah. It was - I had a lot of fun with it. And I wrote it quickly and I read it to people and they thought it was funny. And the funny thing is, I've had more response from women than from men. It's mothers more than fathers who were loving this book.

MARTIN: Saying what? They're saying, what, finally somebody...

MANSBACH: Yeah. They're saying, I feel much less alone. They're saying, when I'm in the bedroom trying to put the kid to bed and missing out on dinner or a glass of wine or the only conversation I was going to have that day, I feel much better knowing that there are millions of people across the world dealing with the same problem and thinking the same words. And you've articulated it and they feel - yeah, I guess it's very cathartic for a lot of them to know that other people feel this way and that it's OK to feel this way. We can laugh about it.

MARTIN: And, now, obviously a lot of people think it's hilarious. But there are some people who think it's totally inappropriate. There are some people who've said, and, in fact, they posted on the Amazon - you know how Amazon has a section where you can offer comments, readers can offer comments. And there really are some people who say things like, it's funny, but it's not for kids.


MARTIN: Or that this is just inappropriate. You shouldn't be even thinking that way. What do you say to that?

MANSBACH: I certainly agree that it's not for kids. It even says that on the back of the book. And, you know, in terms of whether you should be thinking that way, I don't think we should be legislating how people think. I think in this case, it's very cathartic for parents to read this because it validates their frustration.

And the book is clear on the values that we are putting forth. It's a sort of duel narrative. There's the parent's internal monologue, which is frustrated and full of obscenities. And then there's what the parent is actually saying to the child, which is sweet and loving.

So, if anything, the book is sort of about containing your frustrations with your kid, who of course you love, but who's driving you crazy because it's been 38,000 hours since you've been out of the bedroom.

MARTIN: This book is definitely coming to a baby shower near you. I mean, who are we kidding? But I do want to ask, though, it does sort of speak to one other thing. I was just wondering if anybody had raised this. There are people who will say, what is your problem? What's all this, like, negotiating with the other hug and the water and whatever, whatever? Just, like, walk out of the room, yo. What's the problem? Have you ever heard anybody say that?

MANSBACH: Yeah. Yeah. There's all kinds of strategies out there. And that's certainly one. It's not one that I ever tried because, you know, I'm a big softy at heart. I just curse internally and give in to my child.


MARTIN: Finally, before we let you go, I did want to talk a little bit about your prior work.


MARTIN: You're known for some writing - some pretty serious books. Your bestselling "Angry Black White Boys" about race and hip-hop, it's being taught at more than 60 colleges and universities and high schools, from what I understand.


MARTIN: There's also "The End of the Jews," which has been translated into five languages. The Boston Globe called it intense, painful and poignant. So I'm just wondering, how does that guy come up with "Go the - to Sleep?"

MANSBACH: Yeah. Well, you know, what I strive for in all my work is to be honest and to explore the human condition and the paradoxical nature of life. And I've also been lucky enough and made the decision throughout my career as a writer to really just write the books I wanted to write without much thought about audience or commercial salability. So this is yet another book that is just sort of honest and a book I wanted to write. And I did it without any sort of sense of calculation.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, your daughter Vivian was two when you wrote this.


MARTIN: So, how's it going now? Is she going to bed?


MANSBACH: Yeah. It's actually a lot better. She's three and she's turned a certain corner. I'm beginning to think that maybe her inability to sleep was because of concern about our family's financial future. So the book may have helped her to figure out that. Sleep is acceptable now.


MARTIN: OK. Adam Mansbach is the author of "Go the - to Sleep," and a number of other books. It's about the exasperation that many parents feel when trying to put their children to sleep. And he was kind enough to join us from our bureau in New York. And presumably he's sleeping better now, too. Thank you so much for joining us.

MANSBACH: Thank you, Michel.

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