Texas school district suspends seven books from high-school curriculum

Books by John Green, Sherman Alexie, Jeannette Walls among those removed from Texas high school's reading list

The Highland Park, Texas, public school district is the subject of some raised eyebrows this week after suspending seven books from the curriculum of Highland Park High School in response to complaints from parents. The news broke widely Monday, the second day of the American Library Assn.'s Banned Books Week.

The seven suspended books are "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, "An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green, "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse, "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison, "The Working Poor: Invisible in America" by David K. Shipler, "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein, and "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls.

The Associated Press reports that parents of some Highland Park students objected to the books because they contained "sex scenes and references to rape, abuse and abortion." The books will be reviewed, and could be reinstated, but it could be a long process.

Some parents aren't happy with the school district's decision. According to the Dallas Morning News, a group of parents and students has formed to try to get the suspensions lifted. One parent, Laurie Dodic Steinberg, noted that one of the books was being read by students when the suspension was enacted. "They have pulled 'The Art of Racing in the Rain' right out of the hands of the sophomore English students," she told the newspaper, adding: "The fact is they’ve pulled these books in the middle of the six weeks and are now asking the teachers to scramble for a whole new lesson plan. It’s just incredibly sad.”

The Dallas Observer's Emily Mathis notes that the school district removed two books from the curriculum earlier this year: "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult and the frequently challenged novel "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky.

Alexie, one of the challenged authors, spoke out Monday, tweeting: "The real reason my True Diary gets banned? Because it's about the triumph of a liberal Native American rebel."

Jeannette Walls is also unhappy about the suspension, and will get a chance to talk about it fairly soon, close to the home of the controversy. As Texas Observer reporter Patrick Michels notes, Walls will be the keynote speaker next year at a literary festival -- in Highland Park.

 

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