Eila is becoming more race conscious — which, with reference to a four year old, has nothing to do with justice or history but means only that she’s noticing for the first time that people are different colours. The other day she said something about her boyfriend being tan all the time. We told her that where he comes from, Korea, almost everyone is tan. She was quite surprised.
Meanwhile I’m noticing that though Seuss doesn’t work much with diversity — almost everyone in his books is a generic American white — he sure loves Arabs. Most of his Arabs are regular guys: there might be a cultural marker like a name or a turban, but they act like anyone else. Some of them, however, seem to be strangely overworked.
Like Ali Sard from Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Poor Ali has to mow grass for his uncle,
and it’s quick-growing grass
and it grows as he mows it.
The faster he mows it, the faster he grows it.
And all that his stingy old uncle will pay
for his shoving that mower around in that hay
is the piffulous pay of two Dooklas a day.
And Ali can’t live on such piffulous pay!
SO… he has to paint flagpoles
on Sundays in Grooz.
How lucky you are
you don’t live in his shoes!
And then there are those Zizzer-zoof seed salesmen from The Sleep Book: riding around on their camels all day trying to sell a product that “nobody wants, because nobody needs,” wrapped, at the end of the day, in sleep, forgetting their troubles for a few blessed hours.
These portraits aren’t bad, especially since hard work is a Seussian virtue, and most of Seuss’s other Arabs are even less problematic. Still I’m wondering why so many. And I’m also pretty concerned about a single page, from If I Ran The Zoo: