Fifty Shades of Censorship, or How We Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Let Kids Read by Rosemary Hathaway

From my folklore colleague Rosemary Hathaway.

Nerdy Book Club

Sometime in mid-July, I got a text from an English teacher friend at a local high school. She’d just heard, via her principal, that a parent had complained about The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s brilliant short-story collection based in part on his own experiences fighting in Vietnam.

The book was assigned as summer reading for the student’s upcoming AP language and composition class, and the parent—having looked through it—asked for an alternate text. My friend texted to ask for ideas about what she might suggest. I made several recommendations—Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels among them—but the parent rejected all of our candidates and made her own choice, John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

Given that we’re just coming out of Banned Books Week, I’d like to use my Reading Lives moment to address not the dramatic cases of book challenges, like the ongoing battle over The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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One thought on “Fifty Shades of Censorship, or How We Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Let Kids Read by Rosemary Hathaway

  1. John Bartelloni

    During my ill fated years as a econ major at Virginia Tech, I did take Principles of Literary Criticism taught by Wilson Snipes, Chair of the English Department there. The course was way above my head, but I miraculously garnered a “C.”

    Snipes, a Sewanee graduate, was a literary snob. During class one day, he lamented the fact that his daughter, a student at Blacksburg High School, read avidly the poetry of Rod McKuen. Snipes maintained that McKuen’s work was mere “pap.”

    I have never read Harry Potter and have no intentions of doing so. Yet, young people who have read the series will eventually move on to better things. They’ll find Baldwin, Petry, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway, among others, infinitely more challenging and satisfying.

    What young people read is of little concern to me. Encouraging them to develop the habit of reading is much more important.

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