[The husband and I received our first jabs last Thursday. I have mixed feelings about this, in no way relative to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, but about the uncertainty about how the next several months are going to play out.]
Last week the publishers of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s children’s books announced that they were going to stop publication of particular volumes. I have mixed feelings about this, too. I confess my first reaction was outrage, but I had to push that aside, supportive, as I like to think I am, of inclusivity, diversity and all those multi-syllabic words everyone throws around. To get an agreeable (to me) opinion about this step taken by the publishers, check out this Politico article. McElligot’s Pond was one of my favorite books, one I either owned or regularly checked out from the library. The bizarre dwellers of the deep, deep underground stream that fed the pond were frightening but at the same time utterly fascinating. Turns out, it has been out of print for decades.
In an A.P. piece about other books under fire, the “Little House” books were given as an example. In 2018, the American Library Association removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a major children’s literature award, citing racist language in one of the books. My opinion of the Indians portrayed in Little House on the Prairie was that they could be very dangerous to the settlers. I knew Ma hated Indians, but Laura was fascinated by them. In fact, Pa told of how one great Chief derailed plans for a white massacre. Also, don’t forget, whether he was a real character or not, Dr Tan, the physician who treated the Ingalls family for malaria, was “. . . so very black.” A physician for the Indians, Dr Tan was in the area of the Kansas Territory when he heard about the ill settlers. In Prairie Fires, the fabulous biography of the Ingalls family by Carolyn Frasier, there is no mention of who Dr. Tan might have been, not even whether he was one of Rose Wilder’s dramatic concoctions.
Rudyard Kipling, author of Just So Stories and The Jungle Book, is controversial in India due to his support of the British Raj. (this image is a puzzle picture. Find the 2 humans and 1 animal).
Two novels by Nadine Gordimer, esteemed South African writer, were banned in her home country for anti-apartheid politics.
Toni Morrison’s novels have long been the subject of public and parental bans, including the exquisite books The Bluest Eye and Beloved.
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, enjoyed the controversy of being banned in Kern County, California because of the author’s lack of sympathy toward Kern County officials.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, an unparalleled work about injustice, has most recently been banned in a Mississippi school district after a request that it be removed from schools by Black parents because of the use of the N-word.
Mixed feelings. In some cases books and their authors deserve to be censured. In others, objections to a certain written work are flabbergasting. To say that demands for censorship are based on subjective opinion is more than obvious. Depending on one’s cultural bias, racism is bad. Or, from another perspective, explicit sex is bad. Imperialism, rebellion, hypocrisy, social criticism, protest, all can be viewed as dangerous. It’s easier to blacken, ban, remove, hide than to discuss. Most people are so wedded to their opinions that they don’t want to hear details, especially about perception.
And it’s even funnier to think about the fact that in a country defined by a Bill of Rights, where a large proportion of the population doesn’t even read, continues to suffer from these spasms of political correctness and blind nimbyism.
Copies of McElligot’s Pond are selling for close to $400.00, at least for first editions. Now, collectors can likely make big bucks on its being a banned book. So it is in America.