Why should members of the school board who voted to ban Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver because of "sensitivity" problems stop there? Much better to ban Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, with its sexual predator, Minister Dimmesdale. And while they're at it, why not ban the brilliant novelists Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf because of the occasional anti-Semitic characterizations? Ban Shakespeare as well for his negative portrayal of Shylock in Merchant of Venice.
It goes without saying that Mark Twain's works and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind should be banned because of stereotypical images of blacks. Conversely, the board might choose to ban Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and other first-rate African American writers because of their (justifiably) angry anti-white stance. By all means remove the Greek classics from the syllabus since themes of incest and infanticide in Oedipus Rex and Media might be dangerously suggestive to our malleable youth.
Some great World War II fiction should be chucked because of negative references to Asians ("gooks") and Germans ("Krauts"). Blanche Weisen Cooke's exhaustive biography of Eleanor Roosevelt should be banned because of references to her lesbian relationships; Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of LBJ and her depiction of FDR in No Ordinary Time should never see the light of day because of specific references to extramarital affairs. By the reasoning of certain misguided individuals, Dava Sobel, author of Galileo's Daughter, should never have been invited to speak at a luncheon to benefit the Port Washington Library, since her negative portrayals of the Pope might be constructed as Catholic bashing.
The school board should do their best to make sure that one work, in particular, with accounts of fratricide, murder, adultery, betrayal, violence, cruelty, polygamy, drunkenness, and references to masturbation be burned as well as banned. It's called the Bible.
Students do not read in a vacuum. It is assumed that books with controversial subjects are discussed and illuminated in a classroom by a professional who can take sensitive issues and use them to teach powerful, positive messages of acceptance and tolerance. Else we should ban everything and stick to The Bobbsey Twins!
Judith Sloan, MAT -
Former English teacher at New Rochelle High School, Newton High School and Port Washington Adult Ed