Archives for category: Literature

Recently the daughter of one of our regular readers (Roy Turrentine) posted a comment.

She wrote in response to the reports of politician

Bob Shepherd was delighted by her writing, and he offered her a reading list of some of his favorites (unlikely that these are on the Common Core reading list, since CCSS privileges “informational text” over fiction).

Bob wrote:

Have you read Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, yet? I fell head over heels in love with that book when I was your age. And take a crack at 1984, by Orwell, which may be the most important book to be read at this time in history. And here, a few suggestions for short fiction:

MY CANDIDATES FOR THE BEST SHORT STORIES EVER WRITTEN

Asimov, Isaac. “The Last Question”
Atwood, Margaret. “Bread”
Benet, Stephen Vincent. “By the Waters of Babylon”
Bierce, Ambrose. “Chickamauga”
Bierce, Ambrose. “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
Borges, Jorge Luis, “The Library of Babel”
Bostrom, Nick. “The Dragon Tyrant”
Bradbury Ray. “The Veldt”
Bradbury, Ray. “The End of the World”
Bradbury,. Ray. “There Will Come Soft Rains”
Chiang, Ted. “Stories of Our Lives”
Chopin, Kate. “Story of an Hour”
Crane, Stephen. “A Mystery of Heroism”
Du Maurier, Daphne. “The Birds”
Faulkner, William. “The Bear”
Gallico, Paul. “The Snowgoose”
Goldstein, Rebecca. “The Legacy of Raizel Kaidish”
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter”
Hathorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown”
Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills Like White Elephants”
Hemingway, Ernest. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
Hemingway, Ernest. “The Long Wait”
Liu, Ken. “An Advanced Readers’ Picture Book of Comparative Cognition”
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery”
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”
O’Conner, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
Roth, Phillip. “The Conversion of the Jews”
Thurber, James. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
Tolstoy, Leo. “The Life and Death of Ivan Illych”
Updike, John. “A & P”
Updike, John. “The Music School”
Vonnegut, Kurt. “Who Am I This Time?”
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use”

Jan Resseger received an early copy of a new book edited by David Berliner and Carl Hermanns (I contributed one of the essays), and she was delighted to discover that the volume contains what must have been one of Mike Rose’s last essays before his untimely death last summer.

She writes:

I just received my pre-ordered copy of a fine new collection of essays from Teachers College Press. In Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy, editors David Berliner and Carl Hermanns pull together reflections by 29 writers, who, as the editors declare: “create a vivid and complex portrait of public education in these United States.”

It seems especially appropriate at the end of 2021 to consider one of the essays included in this new book—probably Mike Rose’s final essay—“Reflections on the Public School and the Social Fabric.” Rose, the wonderful writer and UCLA professor of education, died unexpectedly in August.

Rose considers the many possible lenses through which a public can consider and evaluate its public schools: “Public schools are governmental and legal institutions and therefore originate in legislation and foundational documents… All institutions are created for a reason, have a purpose, are goal driven… Equally important as the content of curriculum are the underlying institutional assumptions about ability, knowledge, and the social order… Public schools are physical structures. Each has an address, sits on a parcel of land with geographical coordinates… By virtue of its location in a community, the school is embedded in the social and economic dynamics of that community… The school is a multidimensional social system rich in human interaction… With the increasing application of technocratic frameworks to social and institutional life, it becomes feasible to view schools as quantifiable systems, represented by numbers, tallies, metrics. Some school phenomena lend themselves to counting, though counting alone won’t capture their meaning… And schools can be thought of as part of the social fabric of a community, serving civic and social needs: providing venues for public meetings and political debate, polls, festivities, and during crises shelters, distribution hubs, sites of comfort.”

Please open the link and read on!

Sara Stenson was a middle school librarian in Texas for many years. In this post, she calls on Governor Gregg Abbott to stop dragging school librarians into his culture wars with false and salacious claims.

She writes:

Librarians, as public servants, have no secrets. Anyone can access our online library catalogs. It is also important to note that the existence of a book in a library in no way signifies endorsement. Our job is to provide access to our communities and not only to materials which match our personal tastes or values. For example, children have access to “Mein Kampf” by Adolph Hitler in school libraries in Texas. A quick search of the Austin ISD catalog reveals that in the entire district, serving 77,000 students, four copies of “The Dream House” and three copies of “Gender Queer” are on our high school library shelves. And Austin is a liberal city. I suspect only a handful of these two titles exist in Texas school libraries….

Even the legal definition of pornography in Texas states that the term applies to “any visual or written material that depicts lewd or sexual acts and is intended to cause sexual arousal.” Neither book fits this definition.

Just because a book includes some mature content does not make it pornography. School districts have policies for dealing with book challenges, and these should be followed before any books are removed from the shelves.

Does the book have value as a whole? Does it serve certain students in the community? It depends on the local community and if the book is age-appropriate to the patrons. Do librarians make mistakes? I did. At times, I ordered books that ended up not being appropriate for my middle-school library and passed them up to high-school collections. Librarians choose books for their collections by consulting summaries and reviews in selection aids. They cannot possibly read each book entirely before it is ordered…

“The government — in this case, a public school — cannot restrict speech because it does not agree with the content of that speech,” the Bill of Rights Institute says in summarizing the case. “The decisions called libraries places for ‘voluntary inquiry’ and concluded that the school board’s ‘absolute discretion’ over the classroom did not extend to the library for that reason.” “Voluntary” is the key that protects libraries and our freedom to read.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in the censorship wars of his day: “If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.”

Read more at: https://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/other-voices/article256049972.html#storylink=cpy

A reader, Nancy Papat, read Pastor Chartes Foster Johnson’s article about Governor Gregg Abbott’s campaign against pornography in the schools and school libraries. She concluded that the Bible is a dangerous book because it contains sexual innuendoes, violence, and even anti-capitalist propaganda (like driving the money-changers from the Temple).

She posted this comment:

By this standard, schools will have to remove the Holy Bible from school libraries.

* There is much too much sex – that story of David and Bathsheba is for mature audiences only

*There are stories of slavery and abuse which might make some children feel bad because that could be interpreted as Critical Race Theory.

*Then there is the story about Mary and Joseph fleeing Bethlehem for Egypt to protect baby Jesus after the King ordered the killing of male babies. Doesn’t that glorify and even deify refugees?

*Jesus threw moneychangers out of the Temple which could raise questions about wealthy pastors of mega-churches in Texas. Is that anti-religion for a state like Texas? [It is also critical of capitalism.]

*Years later, Jesus himself suffered the gory, torturous death of crucifixion. Clearly the Bible has too much sex, violence, and dangerous political statements for the state of Texas and its students.

Then there is the question of whether Mary and Joseph were married when she got pregnant. If God was the father of Jesus, not Joseph, this raises more questions.

Have you read any licentious or subversive text in the Bible? Please add to her list.

Surely this dangerous book should not be read by children!

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who won the race for governor in Virginia, centered his campaign on education, specifically on his insistence that parents should have the right to determine what their children learn and on his promise to ban “critical race theory” in the state’s public schools.

The second part of the promise should be easy, because Virginia public schools do not teach “critical race theory.”

Youngkin ran a commercial on his behalf that showed a mother complaining that her son was compelled to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which upset him.

What the mother did not say was that her son was a senior in an AP English class where he should have been expected to read the work of a Nobel-Prize winning author.

What the mother did not say was that her son’s discomforting experience occurred a decade ago.

What the mother did not say was that her son went on to have a successful career in the federal government.

A recent article by an African American columnist at the Washington Post contrasts this young man’s experience of Beloved with her own. She too was deeply disturbed by the book.

“Having read it, I can confirm that “Beloved” is an intense, at times frightening book.

“Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has sex, violence, mention of bestiality. It centers on the story of a mother who kills her own child, desperate to ensure the infant won’t have to experience the horrors of slavery as she did. It’s visceral, and haunting, and deeply sad.

“But then again, imagine how enslaved people must have felt to live it.

“This exercise in empathy is, presumably, what is meant to be taught in an Advanced Placement English Literature course for 17- and 18-year-olds — which is where it was situated in the Virginia curriculum when Laura Murphy, the Fairfax County mother prominently featured in a viral campaign ad for Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, began to complain about it.

“In the ad, Murphy describes being horrified by the “explicit material” after looking at her child’s reading assignment. And indeed, in 2013, her son — who was by then a 19-year-old college freshman — told The Post that the book was “gross” and hard for him to handle. “I gave up on it,” he said.

“His mother tried to have the novel banned from county schools. Having escaped the hardship of thinking about slavery, the younger Murphy went on to clerk in the Office of the White House Counsel during the Trump administration and is now a lawyer for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“I was also asked to read “Beloved” in a high school English class, also in Virginia — Richmond, to be precise. It was a hard read. You felt bad. It was also an illuminating corrective, studied against the Virginia backdrop of Robert E. Lee worship, Stonewall Jackson fetishization, and the plantations where enslaved people, we heard in our history classes, worked mostly happily for noble, caring masters.

“The novel taught me the power of literature, how words could transmit deep emotion. It did keep me up at night, because I was grappling with the pain of another person, wondering how someone could get to such a place, how people could do these things to one another. The gory details of the book fled my mind in the ensuing years. But the feeling — I never forgot it.”

Isn’t that what great literature is supposed to do?

So, now we know that Mrs. Murphy’s son couldn’t bear to read Beloved, but it didn’t cause him any harm. Other students, however, learned from it, experienced it, and treasured their experience.

Alexandra Petri writes humorous articles for the Washington Post. She wrote this column in response to a furor in the governor’s race in Virginia. Democratic candidate Terry MacAuliffe asserted that parents should not tell teachers what to teach, and Republicans are outraged by his statement. They say that parents should have that power. Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin released a commercial featuring an angry mother complaining that her son in an AP class was required to read Beloved by Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison.

Petri writes:

Hello, everyone! We’re going to have a great year! Some minor, barely noticeable adjustments to the curriculum have taken place since Glenn Youngkin took office. This is a college-level class in which we’re supposed to be tackling challenging material. But you may remember the Glenn Youngkin commercial starring the mother who was trying to stop “Beloved” from being taught in her senior son’s AP English class on the grounds that he thought it was “disgusting and gross” and “gave up on it.” Anyway, he supported that kind of parental control over the curriculum, so we’ve had to tweak just a couple of things!

Below please find our reading list new and improved reading list after being forced to bend to every concern from a parent:

“The Odyssey” mutilation and abuse of alcohol, blood drinking

Brideshead Revisited” not sure what’s going on with that teddy bear; house named after something that should be saved for marriage

“The Handmaid’s Tale” everything about book was fine except its classification as ‘dystopia’

“The Catcher in the Rye” anti-Ronald Reagan somehow though we’re not sure how

“The Importance of Being Earnest” includes a disturbing scene where a baby is abandoned in a train station in a handbag and the people in the play regard this as the subject of mirth

“Candide” buttock cannibalism

“Don Quixote” makes fun of somebody for attacking a wind-or-solar-based energy source

“Great Expectations” convict presented sympathetically

“Les Miserables” see above

“King Lear” violence and it’s suggested that there are scenarios where parents actually do not know best

“The Sun Also Rises” offensive to flat-Earthers

“Death of a Salesman” features a White man to whom attention is not paid

Okay, well, I’m sure there are still some books we can agree on even if they aren’t at the college level! We can probably extricate meaning from these.

“Charlotte’s Web” valorizes someone who uses her hindquarters to communicate

“Matilda” suggests that the tyranny of school administrators can create a stultifying environment for their children

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” contains The Color Purple which we have been told is badStory continues below advertisementnull

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” communist???

“The Snowy Day” several concerns, most to do with CRT

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” this gave my son a nightmare

Nope, sorry, we aren’t reading anymore. A parent complained that the books on the reading list transported them to different times and places against their will and forced them to imagine the lives of people different than themselves. This is like kidnapping and probably also brainwashing, and we can’t possibly read any texts that do this.

We’re looking forward to engaging with complex, challenging texts that will teach us to read critically, write compellingly and look at the world with new eyes sitting here staring at the wall thinking about what it might have been like to read books all semester long!

Megan Schmidt wrote in Discover magazine about the value of reading fiction. Although written a year ago, this article is timely because it decisively refutes one of the central tenets of the Common Core, which encourages teachers to spend increasing amounts of time on “informational text” while decreasing time for literature.

She began:

Would the world be a better place if people read more books?

Of course, asserting that reading can fix the world’s problems would be naive at best. But it could help make it a more empathetic place. And a growing body of research has found that people who read fiction tend to better understand and share in the feelings of others — even those who are different from themselves.

That’s because literary fiction is essentially an exploration of the human experience, says Keith Oatley, a novelist and professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto.

“Reading novels enables us to become better at actually understanding other people and what they’re up to,” says Oatley. “[With] someone who you’re married to … or a close friend, you can actually get to know them. Reading fiction enables you to sample across a much wider range of possible people and come to understand something about the differences among them.”

Perspectives on Empathy

Psychologists have found that empathy is innate, as even babies show it. And while some people are naturally more empathetic than others, most people become more-so with age. Beyond that, some research indicates that if you’re motivated to become more empathetic, you probably can. Although there are many ways to cultivate empathy, they largely involve practicing positive social behaviors, like getting to know others, putting yourself in their shoes and challenging one’s own biases. And stories — fictional ones in particular — offer another way to step outside of oneself.

Fiction has the capacity to transport you into another character’s mind, allowing you to see and feel what they do. This can expose us to life circumstances that are very different from our own. Through fiction, we can experience the world as another gender, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, profession or age. Words on a page can introduce us to what it’s like to lose a child, be swept up in a war, be born into poverty, or leave home and immigrate to a new country. And taken together, this can influence how we relate to others in the real world

Sometimes, empathy is described as the glue that holds society together. Without it, humankind probably wouldn’t have gotten very far. Our ancestors depended on acts of caring for survival — such as sharing resources, help with healing the sick, and protection from predators. And we’ll probably continue needing empathy to move forward. Yet, at this particular moment in history,it can feel like empathy is on shaky ground.

From this perspective, it seems that our current test-driven regime and neglect of literature are promoting the wrong values. Selfishness, competitiveness, hyper-individualism, lack of empathy.”

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration devised highly successful programs to create jobs and at the same time, perform useful public works, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, which put young men to work, with a salary, food, and shelter while they performed manual labor related to the conservation of natural resources in rural lands owned by governments. Another worthy New Deal initiative was the Federal Writers’ Project, which hired writers to document their time and place.

Scott Borchert wrote a history of the Federal Writers’ Project. He recently wrote an opinion piece about proposed legislation to revive a new Federal Writers’ Project for our time.

Nearly eight decades ago, the Federal Writers’ Project — the literary division of the New Deal’s vast jobs creation program — met an untimely demise at the hands of its enemies in Congress. Now it seems that Congress may invite its resurrection.

In May, Representatives Ted Lieu and Teresa Leger Fernández introduced legislation to create a 21st Century Federal Writers’ Project. Inspired by the New Deal arts initiatives — which produced government-sponsored guidebooks, murals, plays and more — their bill is a response to the havoc unleashed by the pandemic on cultural workers in all fields.

Here’s how a revived F.W.P., as currently envisioned, would work. Instead of hiring impoverished writers directly — as the Depression-era F.W.P. did — the new program would empower the Department of Labor to disburse $60 million in grants to an array of recipients, from academic institutions to nonprofit literary organizations, newsrooms, libraries, and communications unions and guilds.

These grantees would then hire a new corps of unemployed and underemployed writers who, like their New Deal forebears, would fan out into our towns, cities, and countryside to observe the shape of American life. They’d assemble, at the grass-roots level, a collective, national self-portrait, with an emphasis on the impact of the pandemic. The material they gathered would then be housed in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The new F.W.P., in other words, would revitalize and repurpose portions of our existing cultural infrastructure. The plan is drawing support from the Authors Guild, PEN America and the Modern Language Association, as well as from labor unions. Never in the almost 80 years since the dissolution of the original F.W.P. has there been such a unified and resonant call for its return.

Then again, this is the first time in generations that writers have faced the kind of sustained economic hardships the F.W.P. was designed to address in the first place.

The best reason to support a new F.W.P. is also the most obvious. Like its predecessor, the project would be an economic rescue plan for writers, broadly defined: workers who have been grappling with a slowly unfolding crisis in their industry for at least a decade. Even before the pandemic, the combined stresses of the digital revolution, the so-called gig economy, severe cutbacks to local journalism outfits, and other related developments made writing a precarious business.

Then came 2020 and an economic shutdown that exacerbated all these trends. Not every writer felt the worst of it. Book sales went up and the most successful authors, journalists and editors continued to work relatively unimpeded. But less secure writers — and many millions of white-collar workers in writing-adjacent fields — were not so lucky.

A new F.W.P. would deliver a much-needed economic boost, especially if we follow the original project’s example and define “writers” as broadly as possible. That means throwing open the doors to librarians, publicists, fact-checkers and office assistants, as well as beat reporters, aspiring novelists and junior editors. The original F.W.P. considered all such people “writers” as long as they needed jobs and could successfully carry out the tasks of the project.

But writers aren’t the only ones who would gain from a new F.W.P. The project’s documentary work would make an invaluable contribution to the nation’s understanding of itself. Think of the vast treasury that would accrue in the Library of Congress, forming an indelible record of how ordinary Americans live: not only how we’ve weathered the ordeal of the pandemic and mourned the dead, but also how we work and relax, how we think about the burdens and triumphs of our pasts, how we envision the future.

There is tremendous potential in this undertaking. Clint Smith, writing in March in The Atlantic, argued for a revived F.W.P. that would collect the stories of Black Americans who survived Jim Crow, joined the Great Migration, and fueled the civil rights movement — a contemporary echo of the original F.W.P.’s work collecting narratives from formerly enslaved people in the 1930s.

This is right, I think, and crucial. A new project should also grapple with all the major forces that have shaped our moment, from the deindustrialization of the Rust Belt and the collapse of organized labor, to the rise of the women’s movement and gay liberation, to the impact of species extinction and climate change.

The critic and educator David Kipen, a driving force behind the legislation, believes a new F.W.P. would carry out “domestic cultural diplomacy” — the project, as he put it, “might just begin to unify our astonishing, divided, crazy-quilt country.” Today, as we face increasing alienation, division and political tribalism, this quest for national understanding is more urgent than ever.

Recreating the original F.W.P.’s geographical capaciousness would be a key to this effort. In the 1930s, the project had offices in every state; for a time, federal writers were on the ground in every county. This forced the project to include communities far removed from the levers of power — and from one another. A new F.W.P. would also need to cover the nation from coast to coast and border to border. And today’s federal writers would need to be as diverse as the populations they documented.

The original F.W.P. remains a source of inspiration, and rightly so: Its American Guide series is still read and admired, and the reams of material it gathered — including life histories, folklore, recipes and much else — have fascinated countless scholars and curious citizens alike. But its story contains warnings we ought to heed. The project faced opposition from the start. Some critics mocked the F.W.P. boondoggle and jeered at the “pencil-leaners” who staffed it. Others fixated on the presence of radicals, real and imagined, and even accused the F.W.P. of creating a “Red Baedeker.” (Unremarkably for the Depression era, Communists and other radicals did work for the project, as was their explicit legal right; the claim that they controlled it was, and remains, absurd.)

The F.W.P. and the other arts projects, especially the Federal Theater Project, drew such scorn in part because they were perceived to be the New Deal’s soft cultural underbelly: easy targets for critics who sought to undermine the Roosevelt administration’s robust (if also limited) government activism on behalf of the poor and the working class.

The situation today would most likely be worse. Opponents will complain about excessive spending or subversive elements in the F.W.P.’s ranks. But this is no reason to hold back. In the 1930s, the project’s staunchest enemies — nativists and white supremacists among them — denounced the F.W.P. as the worst kind of left-wing folly. But the project found supporters in chambers of commerce, travel associations, and, especially, the commercial publishing houses that released most of the F.W.P.’s books. In fact, 44 of those publishers issued an open letter in defense, arguing that no single private house could have accomplished what the F.W.P. did in a few short years, under conditions of enormous strain, and that curtailing the project would be “a severe deprivation to the reading public and to the enrichment of our national literature.”

They recognized what the nation stood to lose when the F.W.P. was destroyed, and they were right. Now, generations later, we have a chance to bring the project back. Let’s take it.

David Kipen, the “driving force” behind the proposal, wrote about it in the Nation.

The literary world was astonished when the Nobel Prize Committee gave the prize for literature in 2016. Never before had the prestigious award gone to a writer of songs. Dylan was not present at the awards ceremony but wrote a lecture that was released in June 2017.

At the time, I didn’t read it. Probably you didn’t read it either. I can’t quote it in full because of copyright restrictions, but you can find it here. I found it exhilating to read, and I think you will too.

Dylan speaks of the musicians who inspired him, but his main theme is the relationship between literature and music. He writes at length about the books that shaped his values.

He wrote:

When I started writing my own songs, the folk lingo was the only vocabulary that I knew, and I used it.

But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.

Specific books that have stuck with me ever since I read them way back in grammar school – I want to tell you about three of them: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.

He then goes into detail about the impact that these three books had on him. You cannot understand his music without reading his passionate emotional attachment to these three books. We will forgive him for saying that he read these books in “grammar school,” as they were customarily taught in high school (if at all).

The publisher of the many books written by Theodor Geisl (“Dr. Seuss”) announced that it was suspending publication of six books that contained demeaning drawings of Asian and African figures.

The books that will no longer be published 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!”

“The Cat’s Quizzer.”

Having written a book in 2003 called The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Children Learn, I have a long-standing interest in censorship of books, textbooks, and tests. In that book, I came down on the side of free speech and freedom of expression. I did not grapple, however, with the real dilemma presented by books that contained hateful images, even if they were not seen as such when they were first published. I was looking instead at organized efforts to cleanse publications of anything that might offend anyone, like a reference to a cowboy or a landlady or a man wearing a sombrero or an elderly person using a cane.

I wrote about campaigns to remove Huckleberry Finn from class reading lists, to revise Shakespeare to remove bawdy language, and to remove all gendered roles from books.

If I had the chance to revise The Language Police, I would express a different opinion today. I don’t think that children should be required to read books that contain images that are insulting to people based on their race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.

Dr. Seuss wrote wonderful books that did not contain objectionable images. His work will survive. I actually met Theodor Geisl (Dr. Seuss) at a dinner party at the home of Robert Bernstein, the publisher of Random House. He was not a racist or a sexist. The messages that I got from the books I read to my children were humorous, funny, anti-authoritarian, and very appealing to children. My sons learned to read because we read Dr. Seuss so often, again and again, books like “Cat in the Hat” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Those books taught them the playfulness of language. We also read “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew,” which had a very important lesson about not imagining that there was some ideal place out there “where they never have troubles, at least very few,” and that it is best to confront the problems you have in the here and the now. I memorized the opening lines of “Happy Birthday to You” because of its wonderful, wacky rhymes. Another favorite “Yertle the Turtle” was an implicit critique of big shots who tried to lord it over everyone else.

So I write as a mother and grandmother who admired Dr. Seuss’s works. Those that contain racist and insensitive images dishonor him. Any offensive images should be cut out.

Republicans have suddenly become big fans of Dr. Seuss, who was a liberal Democrat and a passionate anti-fascist (Antifa). They say that withdrawing his books because of racist imagery is “cancel culture.”

Donald Trump Jr. has been especially vocal about the harm of “cancel culture.” He is suddenly a fan of liberal anti-fascist Dr. Seuss. Real “cancel culture” is trying to cancel the results of a national election because you lost. Real “cancel culture” is suppressing the votes of people who are likely to vote for the other party. The worst “cancel culture” is using your power to cancel democracy.

The wounded Republicans who decry “cancel culture” are worried that the white male dominant culture in which they grew up is slipping away. Trump Sr. said he would put an end to “political correctness,” so that it would once again be fine to make jokes about women and people of color.

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect expressed his opinion in a Seussian poem:

Kuttner on TAP
If We Ran the Zoo
A lefty named Ted used his art to fight bigots
His books and cartoons were like tolerance spigots.
He located his parables on islands and zoos
And adopted the sweet pen name of Doctor Seuss.

Some of his Sneetches had bellies with stars
They dissed other Sneetches with none upon thars.
The north-going Zax dumbly blocked the way
Of the south-going Zax so that neither could play.

So many of his stories had the same takeaway:
No one is privileged, no race should hold sway.
Our kids grew up with Ted’s tales as teachers
Absorbing the lessons along with the creatures.

Some of his stories were merely in fun
But Ted Geisel’s great cause was to put hate on the run.
His wartime cartoons in the great conflagration
Attacked every brand of discrimination.

In The Lorax Geisel was an early enviro
On gender roles, he was also a tyro.
When Mayzie the bird got weary of egg duty
Horton pitched in and hatched a beauty.

Of course good Doctor Seuss lived in a time
When stereotypes were as common as grime.
Once in a great while, one crept into his whimsy
But against his good deeds the charge of bigot is flimsy.

So swap out some pictures
But please keep the text
And watch who you cancel
For you could be next.

My hunch, having met the real Dr. Seuss, is that if he were alive today, he would change the illustrations in the offending books. And he would applaud the decision to revise them. He was born in 1905; he lived in a time when racism was commonplace and acceptable. It is not any more. And it should never be again. And Dr. Seuss would agree.