From the Irish Times:
The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt complained at Stormont that the teaching guide for Bog Child was evidence of bias and the worst kind of “politicisation of the classroom” under Sinn Féin’s direction.
Mr Nesbitt called for the book by the late London-Irish author Siobhan Dowd and the teaching notes supplied by the North’s Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to be removed.
In response, the CCEA did not directly criticise Mr Nesbitt but said the book was not on the curriculum. It said it was one of a list of suggested books that teachers could use in the classroom for 14-year-old students.
“Let me be clear, this is not an attack on the book,” said Mr Nesbitt. “I have not read Bog Child, so have no opinion on its value as a piece of literature. But I have read the teaching notes, as endorsed by the Department of Education and I am stunned by what I read,” he added.
Walter Dean Myers' Monster has been retained for use in seventh grade classrooms in an Illinois school district (and, yes, they provide an alternate book for students/parents who object to the book):
Daniels, meanwhile, said she's very unhappy with the district's
decision. She adds that the book, according to many reviews she's read,
is actually intended for children no younger than 13.
some of her friends have opted for the alternative book, but their kids
still have to sit in class while the book is discussed. Daniels added
that she'll opt for the alternative if Monster is still is use when her
child enters the seventh grade.
The fate of The Little Black Book for Girlz, meanwhile, is still up in the air at Taft High 7-12 in Lincoln City, Oregon:
“A classmate of my daughter checked the book out of the Taft High
library and gave it to her,’ said O’Donnell. “All her friends had been
talking about the book and when she brought it home she was kind of
O’Donnell described the book as “very graphic.”
“It is simply too graphic for a seventh grader and for my daughter,” said O’Donnell.
I have some amount of sympathy for the parent in this case, but it's rather unfair to expect a library that serves seventh graders through seniors would only stock items that she deems appropriate for seventh graders.
From the Tri-City Herald:
The Prosser School Board deadlocked on a vote to remove The Popularity Papers from some of its school libraries Tuesday night. That means a recommendation approved by Superintendent Ray Tolcacher to keep the book remains in place.
But board members did not support Tolcacher's recommendation to keep Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It on book shelves. The board tabled further discussion of what to do with the book when they were unable to reach a consensus.
...from eighth-grade classrooms in Glen Ellyn, Illinois:
On Monday, those who spoke on this topic during public comment disagreed with the board's decision. Students said they didn't want their ability to read certain books to be determined by other parents in the district and board members, rather than their own parents. Many also said certain objectionable passages in the book were focused on rather than its overall message.
"This book gave me hope," said Carly Basler, Hadley eighth-grader. "This book inspired me. This book showed me my differences are my strengths."
Last week, some Hadley students demonstrated their support for the book by placing sticky notes with drawings of flowers and quotes from the book on walls in the school, Hadley teachers said. They also started their own petition, which was sent to board members, teachers said.
...in Glen Ellyn, Illinois:
The Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education on Monday has nixed a recommendation to keep a controversial novel in eighth-grade classrooms at Hadley Junior High School at after two parents requested to have it removed because of its mature content.
The book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, has been available to eighth graders in literacy classrooms for independent reading. Per the school's literacy curriculum, students could choose to read a book and put it down at any time.
Marjane Satrapi, on the Persepolis brohaha in Chicago:
TO THE administrators I would say: Find your brain again. Stop lying, stop being hypocritical, and trust the young people. Read the book first and don't just be shocked by one picture. Read it first, and then, if you really are shocked, don't teach it. But I'm sure these people didn't even read it.
I would say to the children that I trust them--and I really trust that they will make a better world. I think they are very intelligent, and I really believe in young people.
To the teachers, I would say that I respect them more than anyone in the world because this is really not an easy job to do. Thanks to people like them--they saved my life.
*Post title pulled from the interview, obvs.
From the article:
A student-run New Mexico community college newspaper that was suspended this week after publishing an issue focusing on sex will be allowed to resume publication, school officials announced Wednesday.
Central New Mexico Community College spokesman Brad Moore said the CNM Chronicle has been authorized to continue operations immediately, and the papers will be returned to newsstands.
The papers were pulled off of the newsstands and the staff was suspended, which are both serious actions on the part of the college administration so the WP's title—Suspended NM community college paper to resume publication after outcry over ‘censorship’—reads as obnoxious and condescending to me.
But maybe I'm just being "sensitive".
I used to post about older books a lot more. Somewhere along the way, though, in an effort to keep up with the never-ending supply of review copies and new books at the library (and new books that I buy!), that except for the rare special series, I've gotten away from that.
So, for the foreseeable future, anyway, I'm going to start covering older titles on Fridays. And what better way to start than with The Perks of Being a Wallflower?
August 25, 1991
I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don't try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don't want you to do that. I will call people by different names or generic names because I don't want you to find me. I didn't enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.
I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn't try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.
That second paragraph breaks my heart. Which is an impressive feat, breaking a reader's heart before she even really gets to know the narrator. (And yes, this was a re-read, but it'd been so long that I may as well have been going in completely cold.)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is, as you probably already know—at this point it's shifted, I think, from cult-classic status to modern-classic status—comprised of the letters that our narrator, Charlie, writes to an unnamed confidante over the course of his first year in high school. It's not surprising that it gets challenged again and again and again, as Charlie witnesses—and sometimes directly experiences—many of the very things that parents want to shield their children from: sexual assault, suicide, molestation. Add to that the empathetic and friendly portrayal of homosexuality, the profanity and the drug use, the frank talk about masturbation, and the brief mention of bestiality, and from some perspectives, I'm sure that the book looks like a veritable cornucopia of objectionable content.
The thing is, though—and the way that the book was embraced when it first came out, passed from hand to hand, locker to locker, backpack to backpack, backs me up on this—is that many adolescents not just want, but need to reflect on and talk about these things. Pretending they don't exist is impossible; we—and they—see them every day, if not in our own homes, then in the halls of our high schools or colleges, and certainly on tv.
But The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn't only about the scary things in our world: far from it. There are joys here—making deep and real connections with other people, loving them, feeling infinite—and those joys are every bit as important a part of Charlie's experience as the other parts. It's about a boy climbing out of darkness into the light, about finding his way from the fringes of life into a comfortable center, about a wallflower becoming a participant. And it's a book written with such honesty, that feels so profoundly human—to me, anyway—that even trying to articulate that feeling has me choked up and starting to cry.
So I'll just finish up by saying that it's a book in the same bloodline as The Catcher in the Rye, and deserves every bit of love that gets thrown its way.
BONUS POINTS: It's a book that stands up as literature, too, beyond its emotional impact: over the course of the book, Charlie's voice and writing style strengthens and changes and matures, but in a subtle and organic and believable way. It's so subtle, in fact, that it's almost undetectable as it happens, but if you finish the book and then immediately turn back to the beginning (as I did), it's quite striking.
Book source: Personal copy.
From the News-Leader:
“The committee voted unanimously to keep the book on the shelves with no restrictions,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie said that the committee did discuss the possibility of being more proactive about informing parents that they can place their own restrictions on what their children can access in the library.
From the News-Leader:
The middle school in Buffalo will soon decide whether to ban a “coming-of-age” novel — and it was the school’s own principal who made the formal complaint.
A grandparent of a Buffalo Prairie Middle School student raised concerns about Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 2009 novel “Intensely Alice” to a counselor about a month ago, the Buffalo Reflex reports, but didn’t fill out the formal complaint form that would prompt school officials to consider removal.
However, principal Matt Nimmo reviewed the book after hearing of the grandparent’s complaint, the Reflex reports, and filed the formal complaint himself two days later.
So... that's going on.
From the Arizona Daily Sun:
But not everyone thinks his biography -- "Steve McQueen, King of Cool: Tales of a Lurid Life" -- should be on the shelves of the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library.
The book was one of a handful that have been "challenged" by library patrons over the last few years in an attempt to have them removed or placed in a specific section of the building, explains Heidi Holland, the director for the local library district.
The article isn't really about a specific controversy, just about some of the books that have been challenged at the library over the years. Some entertaining bits in there, though.
At the NCAC:
And of course, some parents object to its sexual content.
Again, the sexual content is that the book mentions masturbation three times and boner four times. There is no sex. Nobody has sex. But in a couple of challenges back East—one in Missouri and one in Georgia—they actually invented sexual scenes. One woman claimed in a newspaper interview that the book contained blow-job lessons. And then another claimed that the lead character ran around grabbing women’s breasts.
From the Washington Post:
“It’s not about the author or the awards,” said Murphy, a mother of four whose eldest son had nightmares after reading “Beloved” for his senior-year Advanced Placement English class. “It’s about the content.”
AP level courses are college level courses.
In college, you read challenging texts.
AP level courses are not required.
And that is all I have to say about that.
...rounded up by the folks at the National Coalition Against Censorship.
And, hey, Judy Blume shares a birthday with my mother: So happy birthday to you both!
(ETA: The above makes the THIRD time I've wished my mother a happy birthday today. WHEW.)
Here are a couple of excerpts from the story, but I'd suggest clicking through and reading the whole thing. (The committee is due to discuss The Popularity Papers today. ETA: Or yesterday, I should say, as the article was dated 2/6.)
From the Yakima Herald:
A committee of administrators, teachers, parents and a student on Tuesday recommended that a book challenged for its graphic depiction of child abuse remain available to seventh- and eighth-graders at Housel Middle School.
Korb said he was disappointed by the committee’s recommendation and will wait to see what Tolcacher does before deciding his next step. In addition to questioning the committee’s rationale for keeping the book in the libraries, he also questioned why the committee is composed entirely of women.
“If we’re willing to sacrifice the many for the one, that’s a problem,” Korb said, referring to Wheeler’s statement.
From the Yakima Herald:
Richard Korb, a social studies teacher at Prosser High School, has formally challenged the books for depictions of child abuse and profanity and what he says is the promotion of homosexuality.
It’s the first time in at least eight years that books have been formally challenged in the Prosser School District, said Mary Snitily, assistant superintendent.
Korb was unavailable to discuss the challenges but a flier signed by him and forwarded to the Yakima Herald-Republic said he wants the books banned. It does not mention simply restricting them to certain ages.
The two books in questions are Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It and Amy Ignatow's The Popularity Papers. Unsurprisingly, Pelzer's book is being challenged due to the child abuse & profanity. Ignatow's book, however, is being challenged for "promotion of the homosexual agenda". Because, you know, depicting a character with two fathers—acknowledging that such families exist in our world—is promoting an agenda.
I would go on, but I think I'm coming down with the plague* and I just don't have the energy. So, like that time that Buffy was going off into battle and wasn't in the right mindframe to come up with a quip: think of something pithy and intelligent and wise, and just imagine that I said it.
From the Effingham Daily News:
She added all the library's sections are open to every age, meaning if the book were moved to the adult section, teenagers would still be allowed to check it out.
Although the ultimate decision was to leave the book in the teen section, the board commended Esker for keeping track of what her children are reading.
"Obviously, your daughter has taken on your values," said Secretary Jane Wise.
Discounting the whole challenge thing, this story was actually a nice example of a younger reader holding her hand up and saying, "WHOA. THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR ME."
I mean, obviously, the parent took that statement and went a step further to "IF IT'S NOT FOR YOU, IT'S NOT FOR ANYONE YOUR AGE", which is problematic, but still.
From the Seattle PI:
The lawsuit claims it's unconstitutional to require elementary school students have a parent's permission to check out "In Our Mothers' House," a picture book featuring three adopted children growing up with two mothers.
"I was shocked when I heard that a handful of parents had made a decision about whether everyone else's kids could have access to this book," said Tina Weber, a district parent who is listed as a plaintiff along with her two children. "Our job as parents is to make sure we teach our children about our values. We can do that without imposing our personal views on the rest of the school community."
...in a Michigan high school:
It never dawned on Heather Campbell that she'd one day work to get a book banned from a school's curriculum.
But Campbell found herself in just that position after she read Jeannette Walls' memoir "The Glass Castle," a book assigned to her freshman daughter over the summer as part of the 9th grade honors English course at Traverse City West Senior High School.
The complainants are now working to have the book removed from all but the 12th grade curriculum.
From Jacket Copy:
When the book was challenged, it was removed from shelves and went before an internal committee for review. That committee advised the Greenville County Library to retain "Neonomicon" and return it to circulation. However, the head of the library system disagreed and decided to remove the novel from the library's collection.
From the Salt Lake Tribune:
The district returned the book, In Our Mothers’ House, by Patricia Polacco, to the regular shelves of four school libraries Monday in response to a lawsuit over the issue filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah in November on behalf of a Kaysville parent, said Chris Williams, Davis spokesman.