Just in time for the annual ALA celebration of Bland Books Week, there’s actually a book being banned in a school. It’s like the ALA plans these things are something. The tale Kind Reader sent in is full of irony.
The banned book is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, a book about a black man who feels that he is invisible to society. You might even say banned by society.
And now the literary work of the black man who wrote the book is invisible to the students of the public schools of Randolph County, NC, at least if they’re in the school library. Of course it’s probably still at the public library, and is available used for less than $2 on Amazon, but you know what I mean.
And that the ban is in a southern state makes it even funnier if it weren’t so sad and stupid. In a state that is “first in voter suppression” a school board is suppressing Invisible Man. It’s like Jim Crow for literature.
The reason why is pretty dumb. A parent complained, as some parents are wont to do, that her child shouldn’t have access to this book in the school library because the child is young and impressionable.
No, wait, the child is in the eleventh grade. We’re not talking little kids and porn here, or an adult level book mistakenly shelved in the children’s section of the public library.
Here’s part of the rationale, such as it is:
The narrator writes in the first person, emphasizing his individual experiences and his feelings about the events portrayed in his life. This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.
That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Not so innocent? Compared to what? Filthier than what? Than the porn her child could easily view on the Internet? Than the conversations that go on in high schools all the time? Does she think her dear little 11th grader is a pure little angel or something?
It cracks me up when parents forget what it’s really like to be a teenager. If anything, being a teenager is filthier, and too much for teenagers. What does she think her child talks about with friends?
The third sentence is just weird. Respecting someone’s religion or point of view has nothing to do with whether books are in libraries. Gee, a widely respected novel is available in a library for an 11th grader to read. That’s just crazy!
Besides, an 11th grader isn’t a “young child” anymore, and for that matter neither are 9th graders, making the argument even more ridiculous. I feel a little sorry for the kid of that mother. Imagine the teasing that could go on. “Your mother thinks you’re a young child that’s not old enough to read a classic novel. Young child! Young child!”
Or however teenagers tease each other these days. It’s probably a little harsher than that.
A further irony is the Board of Education, apparently made up of people who aren’t that educated.
The board members were provided copies of the book. One of them said “it was a hard read.” Really? A book that teenagers were probably reading just fine? It’s not as easy as reading an article in People magazine, but it’s not exactly Finnegan’s Wake.
The best comment from a board member: “I didn’t find any literary value.”
Hmm, who do we trust on the issue of literary value? A school board member in North Carolina, or just about every literary critic and educated reader who has read the book? I’m thinking. I’m thinking.
The good news is that everyone in North Carolina isn’t interested in banning classic novels for high school students. The initial challenge was reviewed at the school level and rejected. Then it was reviewed by a district level media advisory committee and rejected.
So at least the people actually educating the children aren’t interested in suppressing classic literature for teenagers because one irrational parent objects. Pity they aren’t in charge.