A school librarian in Boston rejected a box of Dr. Seuss books sent from First Lady Melania Trump, saying the choice of literature was “cliche” and her school was not in need of them.
The Office of the First Lady announced on Sept. 6 that in honor of National Read a Book day, Melania Trump would send Dr. Seuss books to schools across the country that had been recognized for educational excellence. One school in each state received a package of 10 books. Liz Phipps Soeiro’s school was the Massachusetts recipient, and she wasn’t satisfied.
“School libraries around the country are being shuttered,” Soeiro, a school librarian in Cambridge, wrote on the Horn Book’s Family Reading blog. “Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control? Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?”
But Soeiro also criticized the First Lady’s choice of literature, calling Dr. Seuss “a bit of a cliche” and arguing that the late author’s illustrations are “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.” She did, however, suggest a list of 10 books that she hoped would illuminate the impact she said the Trump Administration’s policies were having on certain children.
That list is comprised of stories about immigration and overcoming racial segregation and gender inequality. Titles include Edwidge Danticat’s Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation, and Duncan Tonatiuh’s Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation.
“You and your husband have a direct impact on these children’s lives. Please make time to learn about and value them,” Soeiro wrote.
The First Lady’s office said it was “unfortunate” that Soeiro had politicized the gift.
“Mrs. Trump intends to use her platform as First Lady to help as many children as she can. She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to schools across the country is but one example,” her spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail to Fortune. “Turning the gesture of sending young school children books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”