Here they are: KRRP’s Top Victories of 2013. We are proud of our work in successfully battling these book challenges, but this effort can only continue with your continued support of the project. If you love these books, support us in this fight for the freedom to read today.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky / Glen Ellyn, IL
District 41’s outgoing school board voted to ban Perks from middle school classroom libraries, with only one board member having actually read the book. Students and teachers didn’t know exactly what to do, but they knew they had to do something. With our help, a little push from Judy Blume, and after nearly two months of constant meetings and negotiations, the new board responded to local activists’ petition to reconsider the ban. When the board voted again, it was nearly unanimous (6-1), in favor of reinstating the book.
Absolutely True Diary… by Sherman Alexie / Yakima, WA
NCAC and KRRP went to bat for this book more than any other work in 2013, facing challenges in Montana, New York and two new cases in New Jersey and West Virginia. Though typically taught in 11th and 12th grades in the West Valley School District, teachers began using the text to draw in reluctant 10th grade readers. A debate began after a mother complained that the language and racial issues in Absolutely True ostracized her child, a new student and one of very few African-American students in the school. Another complainant joined in, claiming the book was “anti-Christian.” Ultimately, the district followed NCAC’s concerns regarding First Amendment principles and allowed the book to remain, and even approved it for future classroom use.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison / Asheboro, NC
Kids’ Right to Read is often successful in cases where we become aware of a book removal threat early on. If a book has already been banned, it becomes difficult to reverse the actions of those in power. And so this sweeping ban of Invisible Man initially made for a distressing situation. School board members claimed the book “had no literary value.” Nevertheless, we quickly called on the board to return the book in a public letter. Just days later, they announced a meeting to reconsider. The board not only rescinded the ban, but some members who initially voted for it had experienced a dramatic epiphany! One even spoke tearfully of his son in the Air Force, “fighting for those freedoms that I’m here passing a vote to take away.”
Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls / Traverse City, Michigan
Another frequently-challenged book, in a case requiring a rapid response. We were informed of the challenge just three days before the school board was set to vote. The district committee had already recommended removing the book from a summer reading list for incoming freshmen, leaving the school board to “rubber stamp” their recommendation. We acted quickly, speaking to board members and sharing a letter explaining our concerns, resulting in the school board voting against its own committee and keeping Glass Castle on the reading list.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman / Alamogordo, NM
On October 11, Neil Gaiman tweeted, “Neverwhere banned in alamogordo, nm. Is anyone fighting back?” Parents asked that the book be taken out of 10th grade classrooms because of an incident on a single page where some background characters are maybe-possibly-potentially having an affair. Teachers and students fought back, though it wasn’t long before they were told to be silent, or risk consequences. We spoke for and alongside the community in defense of a book that had been taught to great success for over a decade. In the end, the superintendent of schools decided to return the book to classrooms, acknowledging that the positive message of the book and its ability to spark student interest outweighed the ill effect of any “bad” words.
The Diary Anne Frank / Northville, MI
During his lifetime, Anne Frank’s father was a careful editor of his daughter’s diary, choosing to omit passages where Anne spoke candidly about her body and struggles with her mother and other family members. Since Otto Frank’s death, the unexpurgated version has been published and is now taught. Not everyone appreciates the frankness of Anne’s descriptions, including a mother who alleged that passages about Anne’s vagina were “pornographic.” The paragraphs in question are, as you would guess, no more pornographic than a conversation with one’s gynecologist or a health-ed class, but debate raged in the district. Reason prevailed and, in his announcement that the district would not remove the book, the assistant superintendent said: “a decision to remove the use of [the book] as a choice within this larger unit of study would effectively impose situational censorship by eliminating the opportunity for the deeper study afforded by this edition.”
We’ve worked on nearly fifty challenge cases in twenty-nine states in 2013, providing direct support to teachers, students, parents, administrators, school board members and librarians in communities around the country.