You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.

rainbow books
A rainbow of books to commemorate the historic Supreme Court of the United States ruling on same-sex marriage

Well, two steps forward, one step back: in spite of the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage, books with LGBT themes and characters are still widely challenged. Here’s an interesting article about ongoing parental challenges and “vigilante censorship” in Vermont schools.

It’s not just Vermont, nor is it just high school: an undergraduate in Yucaipa, California has complained to college administrators that four graphic novels taught in an English course are pornographic and violent. Two of the four graphic novels, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, contain depictions of transexuals and lesbians. I haven’t read the other two, but wouldn’t be surprised if they touched upon non-traditional sexuality as well.

This month, parents and conservative activists went after the Hays, Kansas public library for setting up a display of of books to commemorate LGBT Pride Month.

An elementary school teacher and an assistant principal in Chapel Hill, North Carolina have resigned after parental protests over the classroom reading of a gay fable written for children. The teacher read the story to his class after some of his third-graders began to bully a student they perceived to be gay.

A Los Angeles, California high school teacher has been suspended for reading a passage from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to his class. The offending passage included this: “The duke and the king worked hard all day, setting up a stage and curtain and row of candles for footlights. … At last, when he’d built up everyone’s expectations high enough, he rolled up the curtain. The next minute the king came prancing out on all fours, naked. He was painted in rings and stripes all over in all sorts of colors and looked as splendid as a rainbow.” I don’t know what’s LGBT about that, unless the objecting parents are keying on the words “naked” and “rainbow.”

But then there’s this, a giant and wholly unnecessary step backwards: a high school English teacher in South Windsor, Connecticut was fired after showing his class a video of Alan Ginsberg reading his poem Please Master. Before we get all het up, perhaps we should read the poem ourselves. I did, and all I can say is this: “Teach, what the fuck were you thinking?”


Meanwhile, in non-LGBT book banning news:

A North Carolina challenge to the inclusion of The Kite Runner on a high school honors English class reading list exposes an emerging conservative strategy: 1) pass laws requiring teaching abstinence as the primary way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; 2) interpret those laws to mean schools can teach abstinence only; 3) challenge books you disapprove of by claiming that since sex in any form other than abstinence can’t be mentioned in class, teachers can’t assign books that mention sex. Coming soon to school districts near you, you just watch.

Yet another elementary school teacher has been fired, not for reading LGBT fables or assigning books that have dirty parts, but for mentioning Sandy Hook to students who asked why they had to participate in safety drills. I can extrapolate from this that books with anti-mass shooting and/or gun control themes will soon be on conservatives’ book banning lists.

After all this, we need some good news:

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho parents’  challenge to the inclusion of Steinbeck’s 1937 novella Of Mice and Men on a ninth-grade reading list has been rejected by the school board.

An Albany, New York parent protested that the “level of violence and explicitly sexual passages” made Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale “unacceptable as a high school reading assignment.” Happily, the school review committee disagreed and the highly-regarded novel will remain on the AP English class reading list.

© 2015, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “You Can’t Read That!

  • One of the worst forms of a sense of “entitlement” and something that is being too widely fostered is,”I should never be offended! Being offended makes me feel threatened!” What a bunch of bullshit. This is more than excessive political correctness and is in keeping with the “safety” is the most important thing you can have after, of course, a huge amount of undeserved self esteem.

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