Librarian sends Melania Trump list of “acceptable” books for children

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After Cambridge, Mass., elementary school librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro rejected First Lady Melania Trump’s gift of a set of 10 Dr. Seuss books this week, calling them “racist propaganda,” she was “kind” enough to provide a list of “acceptable” reading material to the first lady, should she choose to make a future donation.

Phipps Soeiro published a letter to Mrs. Trump in a public blog, explaining why she was refusing to accept the Dr. Seuss books, then published a list of ten books she recommended, saying she hoped the list would offer “a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration.”

In sending her list of suggested books, the librarian wrote to Melania Trump:

My wish is that these books will help you see:

  •  the beautiful resilience of children who stand up to racism and oppression and for social justice and reform;
  • children who are trying to connect with parents who are incarcerated simply because of their immigration status;
  • children who integrate aspects of their own cultures and countries of origin into their new country;
  • children whose parents risked everything to enter the U.S. so they can have a chance at a future free from violence and/or poverty;
  • children who challenge society’s social constraints and are accepted and loved as who they say they are.

The books she recommended are as follows:

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic. Two sisters tell how their aunt, a Chinese immigrant to the Midwest, created a family tradition, to help them overcome their homesickness from China.

The Boy & the Bindi. A story about a young boy’s obsession with his mother’s bindi and his experiences when he wears one, written by a transgender woman. The book is described as “suitable as a gentle introduction to Hindu culture.”

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. A story about a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers.

King for a Day. A story about a boy in Pakistan who uses his handmade kite to conquer a bully next door.

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation. A child’s Haitian American mother is incarcerated because she has no papers, describes saying goodbye at the detention facility and the plight of refugees and immigrants.

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood. A boy expresses his “shifting emotions” in a rainbow of colors when his brothers are mean to him.

Red: A Crayon’s Story. A crayon labeled red that colors in blue, and learns to “let go of his label.”

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. The desegregation of schools in California in 1947, and the “segregated reality of Mexican Americans” from a child’s point of view.

Somos Como Las Nubes / We Are like the Clouds. “Gives voice to refugee children” who emigrate from Central America to the U.S. in search of safety or better lives.

Two White Rabbits. A picture book highlighting the experience of a child refugee or immigrant, as a girl and her father travel by foot, by raft and by train.

The Cambridge School district released a statement trying to distance themselves from the librarian’s decision, saying they did not authorize her to make the statements she published.

“While we enthusiastically support the political engagement and passion of our employees, in this instance the editorial posted online gave the impression that the statement reflected the position or actions of the Cambridge Public Schools,” the district said. “Our school district did not authorize any such statement.”

Further, the school said it has “counseled” the librarian on “all relevant policies, including donations policies and the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”

Meanwhile, every book on the librarian’s recommended list makes a political statement.

One person commenting on the librarian’s list of books wrote:

Liz,
It appears your list only includes books published within the last 5 years. Also, it appears your list is specifically compiled with an agenda. Do students in elementary school, who are just learning to read and to find reading fun need to be introduced/exposed to political and more mature or complex or extraordinary ideas/storylines? I know that my children just want a plain and simple fun book.

I believe your list reflects your own interests, again, an agenda you want to push onto the children of other parents. I would love to see statistics that show how often the books on your list are self-selected by children versus 10 Dr Seuss books.

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