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Martin Elster 03-31-2021 05:52 PM

On beyond zebra!
And then they came for ON BEYOND ZEBRA!

Racist imagery is one thing, but we must also beware performance art masquerading as enlightenment.

John McWhorter

Roger Slater 03-31-2021 06:11 PM

He can keep his copy of the book. That doesn't mean that the Seuss estate needs to keep publishing it if they don't want to. It's not cancel culture when you choose to cancel yourself. It's just a publishing decision. No one should be forced to publish a book they don't want to.

Julie Steiner 03-31-2021 06:53 PM

Most of my brief but glorious career as a librarian was in the Geisel Library at the University of California at San Diego, which occasionally presented a display of the anti-Japanese propaganda that Theodor Geisel created during WWII. Geisel's dedication of Horton Hears a Who to his "Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan" is widely seen as a sort of atonement for some of that.

People's views evolve. Geisel's did. That of the managers of his estate now has, too, although the cynic in me suspects that this was done because they saw it as a smart business decision, more than for any other reason.

Of all the terrible things going on in the world right now, the "censorship" of a few of Dr. Seuss's minor books doesn't crack my personal top ten. If it cracks John McWhorter's, he has every right to feel that way, and to say so. But I also have the right to think his priorities might be a little out of whack, and to say so, before I turn my limited attention to things that are more important to me.

John Riley 03-31-2021 09:06 PM

His estate doesn’t want to continue publishing the books. Get over it.

Roger Slater 03-31-2021 09:17 PM

It can be a smart business decision as well as a sincerely principled decision. They want to preserve the Seuss brand as one that is untainted by values that most of Seuss's best work stands opposite.

Mark McDonnell 04-01-2021 11:50 AM

This kind of thing has always happened. I remember old 1940s Tom and Jerry cartoons with racist stereotypes on TV in the 70s when I was little and then they quietly disappeared*. Someone in charge at some point made a decision. A sensible one, I think. Maybe the key word here is "quietly". The Seuss Estate can do what it likes with its own books, of course, but I do wonder why it needed to turn this publishing decision into a very public birthday announcement:

"Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.
We are committed to action. To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles:And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong."

It seemed guaranteed, almost designed, to bring out the silliest catastrophizing from both conservatives and liberals. Which it has.

From the ridiculous and permanently outraged Ben Shapiro:

"In the end, the only literature allowed will be the literature that adheres to the values of our postmodern world — a world in which we are not expected to conform to societal rules but society is expected to conform to our own acts of self-definition. That means your child reading “I Am Jazz” but never — never, Gaia forbid! — the Bible. It means goodbye to cultural icons, large and small — goodbye to all vestiges of the past, replete with their “bigoted” value systems.
It means that the purges have only just begun."

From the reality-challenged Meena (niece of Kamala) Harris:

"I have two young daughters, and I’ve spent countless hours looking for books that would reflect their experiences and encourage their ambitions. As a new parent, I was surprised and frustrated by how hard it was to find those books. Often, I was forced to improvise on the fly – changing pronouns from “he” to “she” or “they,” and sometimes even resorting to coloring a White character’s skin with a brown marker. So I took this news [the Suess decision] as a small but significant milestone for the millions of other parents of color who have struggled with the same challenges…Inevitably, though, when I do read my daughters stories with representation that falls short, I encourage them to follow along with a critical eye. I ask questions about what’s missing: why don’t we know the women characters’ names? Why don’t they speak? Or even, where are they?"

(Really? After "countless hours" of searching she can only find children's books with unnamed, silent female characters or no female characters at all? Apart from several that popped into my head immediately, a Google search of "strong female characters in children's books" and "strong black girls in children's books" took a matter of seconds to produce hundreds of results
The article is basically an excuse to plug a children's book she's written.)

Equally ridiculous statements, both of them.

Some of the images in the Seuss books are dated and racially stereotyped and I understand the reasons behind withdrawing them. But if the Seuss Estate's main concern was, as Roger suggests, "to preserve the Seuss brand as one that is untainted by values that most of Seuss's best work stands opposite" then making such a public statement about their ceasing publication of these minor titles (something that barely anyone would have otherwise noticed) has backfired spectacularly. Instead, they've made Suess a pawn in the interminable culture wars. In a lot of minds he is now tainted, officially "problematic", suspect and defended only by the right and this will override his messages of tolerance, his pioneering environmentalism and his imaginative genius for words and pictures. And what has been achieved? Is America more racially harmonious? Have any people of colour had their lives improved? Nope. Just more noise and performative bullshit from all concerned.

*though they’re still available on DVD

John Riley 04-01-2021 12:16 PM

Actually, Mark, I saw a number, which I now admit I forgot, but there has been a huge and I mean really huge increase in sales of Dr. Seuss books since the BS started. I owned a publishing company for years that was directed to young readers and I wish I had thought of this. "We have decided to remove our biography of Andrew Jackson because he was a genocidal sociopath" and then found a way to let Fox News get ahold of our press release. I could have hurried back to the press for a couple hundred thousand copies and would have that beach house now.

Julie Steiner 04-01-2021 12:33 PM

Oh, what a birthday week for Dr. Seuss books -- AP
March 11, 2021


More than 1.2 million copies of stories by the late children’s author sold in the first week of March — more than quadruple from the week before — following the news that his estate was pulling six books because of racial and ethnic stereotyping. For days virtually every book in the top 20 on Amazon’s bestseller list was by Dr. Seuss.

According to NPD BookScan, which tracks around 85% of retail sales, the top sellers weren’t even the books being withdrawn. “The Cat in the Hat” sold more than 100,000 copies, compared to just 17,000 in the previous week. “Green Eggs and Ham” topped 90,000 copies, and “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold around 88,000.

The six books going out of print are “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

Dr. Seuss was born on March 2, 1904, and sales traditionally go up during his birthday week. But this year they likely received an extra shot because of those most opposed to the estate’s decision. Conservatives soon responded with allegations of “cancel culture,” as Fox News provided extensive coverage and such prominent Republicans as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy released videos of themselves reading from Seuss books.

Mark McDonnell 04-01-2021 12:36 PM

John, that's evil-genius level double bluffing by the Seuss Grinches haha. Anyway, that's the last time I comment on politics or culture war nonsense.

(April fool)

Julie Steiner 04-01-2021 12:38 PM

Well, Mark, you can see how well I am turning my limited attention to other things, as I so sanctimoniously proclaimed a few posts ago.

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