That’s because one family launched an official complaint on December 20, 2011 to have the fictional novel Beloved, by Toni Morrison, banned from the AP English curriculum due to racial themes, sexual content, and passages about ghosts (the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave).
The novel won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 and is set in the years following the American Civil War. It tells the tale of a slave who escapes to Ohio, where a posse arrives to retrieve her and her children under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; she kills her two-year-old daughter rather than allow her to be recaptured.
Plymouth-Canton Schools release reading lists to parents ahead of time, and the book was on the class syllabus since the beginning of the term, so to have this surface now makes little sense unless part of some political agenda.
One student said of the controversy that “Some complain about Homecoming. One person shouldn’t change the whole thing.”
School leaders say that most parents believe the books are fine; and in a statement, Loren Khogali, president of the Detroit branch of the ACLU of Michigan, urged the school to respect the constitutional rights of students and said that “it is alarming that a vocal minority has been successful in denying students these valuable works of literature. Shutting down ideas in the classroom not only raises constitutional concerns, but goes against the very essence of our educational system. This incident is a stark reminder of the threats still facing educational freedom.”
A nine-member committee voted on Friday to keep the book in the AP course. The parents who brought the complain also objected to “Waterland,” by Graham Swift for themes of incest and mental illness. A new committee will be formed to deliberate and vote on that title in about 3 weeks.
Since its publication in 1987 Beloved has won numerous awards and critical acclaim; it has even been adapted for the screen in a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. Of course, it has also faced censorship efforts for just as long.
In 1995 it was challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, Florida; It was also retained by the Round Rock, Texas Independent High School reading list in 1996 after claims the book was too violent.
A member of the Madawaska, Maine School Committee challenged it in 1997, again, because of the book’s language.
The Sarasota County, Florida schools faced a challenge in 1998 because of concerns over sexual material.
The Northwest Suburban High School District in Arlington Heights, Illinois saw a failed challenge to it in 2007 along with eight other titles. A newly-elected school board member raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she’d found on internet blogs.
Beloved has also been removed from the AP classes of Eastern High School in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008 because two parents complained that the novel depicted the inappropriate topics of bestiality, racism and sex.
In the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho School District some parents say the book, along with five others, should require parental permission.
According to the American Library Association Beloved is challenged so often that it ranks in at number 7 on the top 100 most-challenged classics of all time. It comes in at number 45 for the years 1990-99, and at number 26 for 2000-2009.
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html
Sources: American Library Association, Amazon, Wikipedia, WDIV Detroit, Detroit News, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Marshall University
© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions