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Parents want 'Of Mice and Men,' 'Kite Runner' removed from high schools

John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' called too negative and dark for high schoolers

If parents get their way, John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner" could be banned from their children's high school classrooms in Idaho and North Carolina, respectively.

The critically acclaimed novels are the targets of challenges in two cities: "Of Mice and Men" in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and "The Kite Runner" in Asheville, N.C.

In Coeur d'Alene, four members of a committee dedicated to curriculum review have urged the city's school district to ban Steinbeck's famous novel from being taught in classrooms, reports the (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review. The book would still be allowed "on a voluntary, small-group basis."

Mary Jo Finney, a parent who has previously raised objections about books in the school district's curriculum, declared that the book "is neither a quality story nor a page turner." She and other committee members have a problem with coarse language in the book, such as "bastard" and "God damn," and allege that "the teachers actually had the audacity to have students read these profanities out loud in class." They also complained that the novel, set in Depression-era California, is too "negative" and "dark."

Dave Eubanks, a nonvoting committee member, supports the recommendation. "Nobody’s banning books or burning books, he told the Spokesman-Review. "There was just too darn much cussing. It was on almost every single page of the novella."

"Of Mice and Men" was published in 1937. In 1962, John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, being cited by the Nobel committee "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception."

Meanwhile, Khaled Hosseini's 2003 bestseller "The Kite Runner" is also running into trouble with parents.

In Asheville, one school has already suspended the book, a frequently challenged novel about an Afghan boy growing up in Kabul. Reynolds High School has pulled the book from an honors English class following a complaint, Asheville's Citizen-Times reports.

The temporary suspension came after a complaint from Lisa Baldwin, a parent who used to serve on the school board. Baldwin objects to the book's profanity and "adult themes," and says it's "demeaning to women."

Baldwin wants students to get permission from their parents before reading the book, which contains a scene depicting sexual assault. "The description of the book the teacher included mentioned that there was a rape," she said, "but not that it was the rape of a child and it was the homosexual rape of a child which I felt was something parents needed to know."

A committee will review the book later this month; until then, it's been replaced with Erich Maria Remarque's World War I novel "All Quiet on the Western Front."

This is far from the first time "Of Mice and Men" and "The Kite Runner" have faced possible bans. According to the American Library Assn., Steinbeck's novel was one of the most frequently challenged books in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Hosseini's novel made the top 10 list of challenged books in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

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