25 September 2013

Invisible No More

There’s little I find as chilling as book banning.  Prohibiting certain books from being in school or public libraries isn’t the start of a slippery slope, it means you’ve already fallen off the cliff. 

I’ve written a fair bit about how my beloved home state of North Carolina has gone off the deep end lately and it just keeps getting worse and worse. 

A few weeks ago, Randolph County in N.C. decided ban Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” from public school libraries because a high school student’s parent complained, in a 12-page letter, about the sexual content of the 1952 novel. 

The book is a seminal look at African American life in the early 20th century.  Instead of being prohibited, it should be mandatory reading for every high school student in the country. Among the awards “Invisible Man” won are the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. Time named it on of the 100 Best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. 

So all it took was one very long letter that cited “offending” passages for the Randolph County School Board to vote 5-2 to remove the book from all of the county’s schools. 

But you know what happened?  As I was writing this, I checked to see if there were any new developments after last week’s vote. Tonight, the Randolph County School Board voted to reverse its decision. 

It seems once the ban was announced, a little bit of an uproar started. A bookstore in Asheboro began handing out copies of the book for free to Randolph County high school student. Teachers protested the ban and they spoke at the board meeting about the importance of the book. Hmmm, you’d think maybe they should have let teachers speak at the first meeting last week. The vote tonight: 6-1 to overturn.  YAY! I really didn’t know that had happened when I started writing this. That seldom happens that a wrong is righted so quickly. 

Also, as one news report pointed out, this is 2013. Even if you take the book out of every school library, kids can find it online. While banning is still incredibly dangerous, it’s not going to stop anyone from reading something if they want to. They’ll just find another way to access it. 

Today’s $10 goes to Kids Need To Read, an organization that provides books to underfunded schools, libraries, homeless shelters, etc., all in an effort to get books in the hands of children.

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