Don’t Ban Books

I rarely write about “local” events (although “local” blogs are my favorite), but circumstances provoke me tonight. According to Jacksonville’s own Citadel of Truth, First Coast News, Eddie de Oliveira’s novel Lucky is under review by Duval County Public Schools (my Esteemed Employer, I add in the interest of full disclosure). A parent has complained that the book contains “questionable” material and should be banned from the school library. Aparently even in the late oughties the theme of a sexually-confused teenager is “questionable.” According to the (short) report, the parent was particularly offended by “gay themes” and the words “swinger’s party.” The story was barely a blip in the background as the wife and I prepared fresh pesto, so I didn’t catch what particular school said parent’s spawn attends [ed. note–I found out Tuesday morning that the school is none other than LaVilla School of the Arts (emphasis mine)–Jiminy Cricket, what’s up when it’s the art school parents attacking books!] but even if it is an elementary school (which it probably isn’t, not that that matters), banning books from our public school system is regressive at best, and ultimately an abasement of knowledge and intellect. In the past, DCPS has restricted and/or banned The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men and at least a dozen more books (I haven’t been able to locate a complete list as of now). Of course, every year many books are challenged (the Harry Potter series springs immediately to mind, and Judy Blume has always caused problems for uptight parents who don’t want to talk honestly with their kids) and as an English teacher I’ve dealt with this in my own classroom, from both parents and administration (an administrator advised [i.e. told] me not to have my students read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; another time an administrator was shocked by the diction of Zora Neale Hurston’s classic Their Eyes Were Watching God). This particular mother’s concern is the “questionable” nature of the Lucky‘s themes which might cause readers to uhm, you know, question stuff. If super-mom doesn’t want her kid to read so-and-so, that’s fine with me (and what a great, attentive parent to be all up in the grill of said child’s reading material. Seriously. We (educationeers) really encourage reading with your kids. For real)–but why attempt to ban the book? Why can’t the rest of us make these decisions for ourselves? I could go and on, but I think that my readers don’t need convincing (if you need convincing that banning books is an anti-progress gesture indicative of a caveman mentality, email me at Let’s not add to Jax’s reputation as a bastion of provincial attitudes (particularly in light of recent vagina-controversies): if necessary, we must fight for this book, and every other book’s, place on the library shelf.

For a list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books, go here.