February 6, 2008

Author John Green Banned?

Award-winning young adult author and Nerdfighter John Green has a book being attacked by censors.

"Two teachers at Depew High School outside of Buffalo, New York would like to teach my novel Looking for Alaska to 11th graders. (ELEVENTH GRADERS!!!!) A letter was sent home to every parent explaining that the book contained controversial content. Parents could either give written permission for their kids to read "Alaska" or not reply, in which case the kids would read a different book.This seems to me an extremely well-reasoned and thorough way of approaching the complexities of 'edgy' (I hate that word) books in English classes. Even so, a few members of the community of Depew have objected to the book's presence in the curriculum on the grounds that Looking for Alaska is 'pornographic' and 'disgusting.' They feel that parents should not be allowed to choose for themselves whether the book is appropriate in a high school English classroom.There are many supporters of the book among teachers, administrators, librarians, and the school board in Depew. To help them, I'm asking people to email letters of support for the book..."

Here is my letter and his response:

As a teacher coming from the school in Georgia where we just got over a very public and vicious attempt to have the Harry Potter novels removed from the shelves by a dogmatic zealot, I know what Depew is going through. They even went the extra mile in giving parents a choice up front. I just want you to know that there are more people who agree with you than don't and you are doing the right thing. Those people put our Media Specialist through the meat grinder and she has come out with a stronger support system from parents and colleagues alike. She won the Teacher of the Year award, the Media Specialist of the Year Award (for the state) and, for her dedication in the fight against the book banners, the Intellectual Freedom Award.

How awesome is it that our profession has an Intellectual Freedom Award? The experience has spurred me on to become a school librarian myself.

Not only are you not alone, but you have the support of many.

Let us know if there's anything else we can do.

Thank You,

Jim Randolph

Dear Jim,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write, and for your spirited defense of the rights of teachers and parents. I've forwarded your comments on to the school board. Thanks again for your letter. I deeply appreciate it.


I'll let you know if there's any more news on this.