A mother in Alamogordo, N.M., happened to flip through her kid’s homework and was distraught by what she found. Nancy Wilmott’s teenage daughter had been assigned to read the British writer Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere,” which happens to have one extramarital sex scene between two adults, and has been on the Alamogordo High School 10th grade curriculum since 2004. Wilmott lodged a complaint with the school, which has suspended the use of the book in its course materials and taken it off the library shelves.
Alamogordo public school Superintendent George Straface told the Alamogordo Daily News that the suspension is only temporary, until the school’s administrators have reviewed the text.
“"The F-word is used,” Straface says, describing his own preliminary reading of “Neverwhere.” “There is a description of a sexual encounter that is pretty descriptive, and it’s between a married man and a single woman. Although kids can probably see that on TV anytime they want, we are a public school using taxpayer dollars.”
But one English teacher at the high school is incensed. Pam Throp told the Daily News that she “cannot and will not condone the censorship this parent is promoting.” Wilmott, the parent in question, is upset by a scene depicting sex between a single woman and a married man, complete with the liberal use of an explicit four-letter word.
Throp described her responsibility to “engage [students] in evaluating the human condition.” Censoring the book or the passage that has caused contention would compromise Throp’s teaching aims.
Straface told the newspaper that the book hasn’t officially been banned by the school, but that it may be soon, pending review. “Some people may call that censorship -- and I would say, ‘Yes, it is.’”
Neil Gaiman, a New York Times bestselling author, tweeted asking for more “hard information” surrounding the story. In an email with NPR he said that “Neverwhere” is “an adventure, with themes of social responsibility.” He added that he mostly worries “that anyone who buys it thinking they are in for lashings of Sex and Violence will be extremely disappointed.”