Monday, April 15, 2024 -
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The forest from the trees

It probably isn’t coincidence, but I wrote my column last week about anti-heroes before it was announced that six of Dr. Suess’ books would cease to be published due to disparaging imagery of ethnic and racial minorities. Having seen the offending images, I don’t have a problem with that particular decision (at least when it comes to two of the titles; the other four, not so much), but nevertheless I am concerned.

It seems undeniable that we’re living through a fairly unnuanced age, where people are losing the capability of living with contradictions, or understanding that two things can be wrong, or two things can be right. Mutual exclusivity rules the day.

So will consumers understand that the vast majority of Dr. Suess’ output is wonderful and boosts literacy, and that his problematic illustrations are only a small part of what he published, and were early in his career? (Which leads to another point: The lack of acceptance that people evolve and are not today what they may have been years ago.) Or will the entire Suess ouevre be tossed with the proverbial bathwater?

As the Seuss story was breaking, I heard rumblings of one of my most beloved children’s characters, Curious George, being lined up next for the chopping block.

I honestly have no idea what is problematic about the fictional storyline of a person on safari returning with a monkey. Sure, smuggling wildlife out of a country is not legal, but this is a made-up kids’ book for Pete’s sake! And the relationship between the Man in the Yellow Hat and Curious George is so fun and loving, one would need to be a true grinch (no pun intended) to find something untoward about it.

Besides, whatever issue may exist in Curious George (again, I didn’t realize people felt that strongly about poaching), removing him would consequently mean removing its authors, H. A. and Margaret Rey, Holocaust escapees whose remarkable story is captured in the engaging documentary, “Monkey Business.”

Theirs, and their subsequent creative output, is a story that should be celebrated — not one upon which aspersions should be cast!

I fear this microscopic lens we’re using runs the danger of not seeing the forest for the trees. Our literary environment will be the poorer for it.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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