Friday, August 26, 2011


I discovered an article today that addresses another case of book censorship at a high school in New Jersey, specifically Williamstown high school.  In this case, two titles are removed from the summer reading lists -- for honors English students entering grade 10 for the first, and for senior honors English students for the second.
Norwegian WoodThe first title is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and its removal was due to the parents' complaints about a certain passage in the book, which depicts a “graphic lesbian sex scene between a 31-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl.” I find it interesting that the article would not use the obvious description of pedophilia for this passage. I don't think I need to address why it is wrong that anyone should be required to read something of this nature.
Tweak: Growing Up on MethamphetaminesThe second title is Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff. The book was removed due to a passage detailing a “drug-fueled homosexual orgy.” While the legality of this issue is not as certain as in the previous title, it can be no less offensive, especially to someone with conservative tastes. Again, I do not believe that this should be required reading.
While I am completely against book banning, I feel I must point out that this is not a book-banning issue, nor even a true censorship issue, since the students are still free to go and buy or borrow these books outside of the classroom. This is merely a case of altering the required reading lists of a few classes, an act which likely happens regularly all across the country every year.
Ironically, I am nearly as much against the "required" part of these summer reading lists as I am against book banning. Forcing books onto students can have the effect of scaring them away from reading, especially if those books clash with personal religion, culture, etc. While this can certainly get out of hand, there are ways to wisely use choice on these summer reading lists.
I know of one title in particular that I still resent being forced to read because of both the style of writing and the content -- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I know there were other books that had both myself and my classmates wondering the value in forcing high school students to read them.
In the case of this high school, I am glad that some of those parents bothered to say something about the material being forced onto their children.


phyllis sweetwater said...

phew I'm glad I live in Canada. Book Banning is as old fashioned as brainwashing. I am really enjoying your blog!

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