Nephew cry­ing foul over racism charge vs. au­thor

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By CHRIS CAS­SIDY

The grand­nephew of Spring­field na­tive Dr. Seuss is de­fend­ing the beloved chil­dren’s au­thor after a Cambridge li­brar­ian re­jected a gift of 10 Seuss books from first lady Me­la­nia Trump, say­ing they “are steeped in racist pro­pa­ganda, car­i­ca­tures, and harm­ful stereo­types.”

“I know one thing for sure — I never saw one ounce of racism in any­thing he said, or how he lived his life, or what his sto­ries were about,” said Ted Owens, who called the charges “pre­pos­ter­ous” against his great un­cle, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel.

“When you have grinches and sneetches and all his other char­ac­ters, how can you say that’s racist? His char­ac­ters are based on madeup char­ac­ters,” Owens said. “They’re Sam­I­Am, they’re ele­phants, ‘Hor­ton Hears a Who.’ ”

Cambridge Pub­lic Schools li­brar­ian Liz Phipps Soeiro sparked the con­tro­versy yes­ter­day, when she turned down a do­na­tion of 10 Dr. Seuss books from Me­la­nia Trump, sent as part of Na­tional Read a Book Day

“Dr. Seuss’s il­lus­tra­tions are steeped in racist pro­pa­ganda, car­i­ca­tures, and harm­ful stereo­types,” Phipps Soeiro wrote in a sharply worded let­ter to the first lady, posted on The Horn Book blog, de­cry­ing the “min­strel char­ac­ter­is­tics and trope na­ture” of Seuss’ char­ac­ters.

“Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mul­berry Street, for ex­am­ple), and you’ll see the racist mock­ery in his art,” Phipps Soeiro stated.

“You may not be aware of this,” she archly lec­tured Trump, “but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche, a tired and worn am­bas­sador for chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture.”

Phipps Soeiro also scolded the first lady about Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing cuts, sug­gest­ing she in­stead do­nate the books to “un­der­funded and un­der­priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ties that con­tinue to be marginal­ized and ma­ligned by poli­cies put in place by Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Betsy DeVos.”

The li­brar­ian then de­liv­ered a back­handed com­pli­ment, call­ing the gift “a won­der­ful ges­ture, if one that could have been bet­ter thought out,” while also not­ing the books were “sent sec­ond­day air, no less! That must have been ex­pen­sive.”

Cambridge Pub­lic Schools quickly dis­tanced it­self from Phipps Soeiro, not­ing her let­ter didn’t con­sti­tute an of­fi­cial re­jec­tion of the books, nor did her opin­ions re­flect that of the school sys­tem. The depart­ment also “coun­seled” her on “all rel­e­vant poli­cies, in­clud­ing do­na­tion poli­cies and the pol­icy against pub­lic re­sources be­ing used for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.”

Geisel, the au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor of “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” re­mains cel­e­brated around the globe. The Amaz­ing World of Dr. Seuss Mu­seum opened in Spring­field ear­lier this year. And first lady Michelle Obama hosted a Dr. Seuss party at the White House in 2015, read­ing chil­dren “Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good for You.”

Spring­field Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, a Demo­crat, is­sued a harsh re­buke of the Cambridge li­brar­ian, say­ing in a state­ment, “‘One fish — two fish — red fish — blue fish’ — I think her com­ments ‘stink’ and are ridicu­lous to­wards our beloved Dr. Seuss. We’re ex­tremely proud to be home to the one and only Dr. Seuss Mu­seum in the world. By the way, at­ten­dance has been through the roof, too!

“Her com­ments that this is ‘racist pro­pa­ganda and that Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche and a tired and worn am­bas­sador for chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture’ is ‘po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness’ at its worst . ... By the way, ku­dos to First Lady Me­la­nia Trump for her gen­er­ous of­fer to do­nate Dr. Seuss books to that Cambridge school li­brary — they don’t want them — we’ll take them and would be hon­ored to have the First Lady and Pres­i­dent Trump ... visit.”


NO THANKS: Cambridge Pub­lic Schools li­brar­ian Liz Phipps Soeiro slammed a do­na­tion of books by Dr. Seuss from first lady Me­la­nia Trump, right.


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