Censorship or caution?
There is a dispute at a California high school regarding the selection of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones as a reading project for grades 9-12.
Malibu High School students chose the book; second choice was George Orwell's 1984.
The book, "Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold, rocketed to bestseller lists in 2003. It is written as a narrative in the voice of a 14-year-old girl who had been raped, murdered and dismembered by a neighbor. The girl watches from heaven as survivors grapple with her death, and as her family falls apart.
"This is adult material, and I am trying to grasp why you would pick a book that is so controversial?" asked parent Barry Schoenbrun at a Parent Teacher Student Association meeting at the school last week. The hour-long exchange in the school library was described by participants as calm, respectful and deliberate.
School principal Mark Kelly said he would take the messages he heard to a meeting with the school's English teachers this week. A decision on whether to continue with the planned assignment will come after that, Kelly said.
"I would like to point out that the book was selected by the students, and we would like to respect that," said English teacher Bonnie Thoreson. "The book was approved by the California Department of Education, with the notation that the content was for an adult readership with mature content, and that teachers should be sure to know the child given the book."
At the meeting, parent after parent, who described themselves as liberal and realistic in outlook, raised problems with the book.
Now, I have to be honest. I could not make myself read this book-- I tried. I do not want to read about young teen girls being raped and chopped into pieces. I also couldn't read Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World for the same reason. I just have a really hard time thinking about children being killed or drowning.
Nonetheless, I stand by the right of others to read this book. Perhaps, though, there might be other students who could not get through this book as well. In which case, having an alternate book for students to choose might be the right choice.