Rediscovering classic novels

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Just found this on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Minerva-William-Green-Tennesseana-Editions/dp/0870491822

Apparently they are selling reproductions of this book. If you read the description and some of the reviews you will see these books are clearly racist, but have some redeeming virtues. I first encountered them when a substitute teacher took over our class in about the fourth grade. She read these books to us to keep us quiet. We adored them. Of course, our schools were segregated in those days. Any black students, would have probably felt humiliated by them, but none were there to hear the stories.
Apparently Project Gutenberg has them on line to read and some people consider them classics.
Frankly, it would be fine with me if they were to die out completely.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Pajarito, I have a children's book called Carolina Caravan which is extremely racist in its treatment of a young Black orphan girl who shares the adventures with the other children. It's amazing to read because of that, but it was so clearly a story of its time and culture that it made me shake my head more than offending me. I think books such as those and, probably, the Minerva series tell us a lot about history and where we were a generation ago. As long as they're viewed in that context I think they teach an important lesson.

Just my opinion, though....

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I share your opinion, but I don't think I would read such stories to a child. For adults, however, they are amazing period pieces -- not real classics in my opinion.

(Zone 7a)

Yes, it would be nice if those kinds of books just went away BUT, "Those who forget history..."

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

I think it would be very instructive to a child - and shocking, when viewed through today's sensibilities.

Santa Fe, NM

It is an interesting discussion and relevant to classics in the sense that some books hold up so well in time but others become dated and are more of interest in an historical sense. Speaking of shocking, what about the old fairy tales? That is really a whole 'nother topic, but I'm sure many would be considered way too violent for children in 2009.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Don't forget that they weren't really meant to be children's stories; they were part of the oral and written traditions of the times and were handed down as such.

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

Ditto what Greenhouse Gal said; Sambo is a children's tale from India, and the story in itself isn't really racist. The little boy in the story was your usual clever child who takes on an evil villain (the tigers) and wins. The tigers even turn into ghee, or clarified butter, an Indian staple!

I think the claims of racism usually come from how the book was illustrated in the past, as well as the stereotypical African names. I've seen an version with Indian characters, and I wouldn't be afraid to give it to any child.

Plano, TX

i loved sambo and cannot remember why it was racist--i do remember liking the tall stack of pancakes he made out of the tiger butter --i need to try and find it again --now childrens authors are very good at including a multitude of ethnicities, religions, handicaps, life styles etc in their stories--

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Funny, all these years I was thinking it was African. Maybe it was because he was "black" Sambo?

But now it makes more sense. The pancake part, at least.

Edited to add: Here's at least part of the reasoning - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Black_Sambo#cite_note-0



This message was edited Sep 28, 2009 8:38 PM

Santa Fe, NM

Greenhouse Gal, important to remember that stories were handed down as tales told around the fire. I always liked the idea of tigers running around a tree and turning to butter. I wonder how tigers would feel about the story!

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

It would slide right off of them....

Santa Fe, NM

Like butter! Those tigers. : )

(Zone 7a)

LOL

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Wouldn't melt in their mouths!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

It had been a long, long time since I read Little Black Sambo so I went back and read it online. It is a very cute story and the only thing racist about it is the word Black. I don't see anything wrong with the illustrations using African appearing people either. If the author had just named the story "Little Sambo" instead of "Little Black Sambo" it would have been far less offensive. But when the story was written, there just wasn't much consciousness of racial implications of things. I agree that the story itself isn't racist.

Plano, TX

i'm glad to hear that since i remember nothing but good feelings about the story--

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Actually, it looks like "Sambo" is a racist term in other countries, kind of like "the N word" is here - that's what the Wikipedia link I posted got into. There's been a number of re-writes of the story, changing the name, etc. .

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Yes, I read that, too. Changing it to Little Sambo would only help in the US where nobody knows that Sambo is a pejorative. It would have to be Little Joe or some such, here.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Little Joe was a cowboy so that would be very confusing although he did eat pancakes I think (or maybe that was Hoss).

Plano, TX

was sambo a racist term before the book or because of the book?

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Good question, linda. I guess, before.

springfield area, MO(Zone 5b)

according to the wiki site, it is feasible to assume that sambo became an offensive term after the book.

I have adopted two girls from India and we tell the Little Black Sambo story, we do not find it offensive at all.
we like the story!


Back to the thread,
My girls enjoy 'Anne of Green Gables' and the rest in that series.
I watched some movies once that went along with the books, First two movies were great, third in the set STUNK. Horrible piece of junk that I ended up not even being able to finish it was so bad.

I think our favorite 'classic' around here is the Bible :)
My kids like Bible stories and are getting old enough now to read the Bible, not just the kiddie versions.

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