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Nevertheless I Persist In Throwing Out Dumb Books

Nevertheless I Persist In Throwing Out Dumb Books October 6, 2021

Though not these ones, these ones have been mended within an inch of their lives.

This is a long and fairly interesting piece about the over-abundance of celebrities and politicians being invited to write a lot of boring children’s books. It starts out well…though gets rather in the weeds as it goes on. But I liked this a lot:

This contemporary quote is an ill-considered retroactive framing device for a book about thirteen American women who lived during different times and under wildly different circumstances. There is an obvious flattening that occurs here: Winfrey’s persistence looked nothing like Bridges’s, or for that matter, Bly’s. Clinton applies a one-size-fits-all pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps narrative to multiple women’s stories in a way that ranges from tedious to outrageous; to suggest that Harriet Tubman’s story “could have ended there” if not for her persistence is to imply that people who were enslaved had individual responsibility to free themselves. Through grit and determination, the book suggests, any woman can succeed at any set of challenges! (And, it is careful to imply in some stories, pull other women up with them.) Reading She Persisted, one might get the impression that the experience of American womanhood over the course of the last 200 years has resembled that of doing an obstacle course — and winning.

It is, as we all know, an unequivocal truth of Americana that if you try really hard, you will succeed at anything you want, as long as you are really pretty and already have some money and can sing and also get an audition at a major motion picture studio. This is called “hustle” and also “manifesting” and I, for one, would not begin to question its veracity. That would be some terrible kind of heresy.

Though the Doctrine of Persisting is so very boring, we must all endure, and pretend to like all these very boring books. I have been trying to explain this to my eldest child who is taking a class about how to read things aloud. Now, this might seem to you to be a waste of a class but it is not, for she needs to read more slowly and gain more presence in speaking to other people. She has tended to stand too much on my heel and mutter sarcastic comments in my ear, rather than trying to amaze the whole room. And I am happy with her progress, for she has taken to speaking aloud in groups and making more sense. She persists, as it were, thank heaven, even though the class includes a proliferation of boring forum posts and other kinds of modern-day learning techniques.

But now she has to read out a children’s book in class and so is persecuting us all by making us stop and listen to her read all the old favorites and say what we think–Bread and Jam for Frances, What Do You Say Dear, One Eighth of a Muffin, Owl At Home, CinderEdna, Hurry Hurry Marry Dear, Millions of Cats…I guess I shouldn’t list them all or I’ll be in danger of writing a real “article.” Right now all the votes are going for The Cannery Bear, which, I think, is an effulgent and unparalleled moment in children’s literature.

The problem in every age, and why most children’s books have to go into the landfill, is that adults are worried that the child won’t Get It. But this anxiety doesn’t imbue them with a desire to commit to the hassle of having to live along with another person, explaining some things but not others, allowing silence and quiet and humor to give birth to wonder, persisting in seeing the child as a human person who will want to have thoughts and feelings all “their” own. It is much easier to go all-in for totalitarian behavior modification. Which, as we all know, is the most boring thing ever…and not very effective…but nevertheless everyone persisted.

Anyway, what are your favorite books for children? She still has time to completely chuck over her plans and start afresh!

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