Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ban the Books?

A brouhaha has developed in Kanawha County, West Virginia, over whether some books by writer Pat Conroy are obscene, offensive, too violent, etc.—and thus should be removed from the library.

This morning on page 9 of the Roanoke Times A section, I read about the controversy surrounding Conroy’s Beach Music and The Prince of Tides. You can read the article here or here.

I became a Pat Conroy fan back in the early 70s when I read The Water is Wide. In his 1972 memoir, Conroy tells of his teaching experience on “Yamacraw Island,” off the South Carolina coast. About the time he was coping with abysmal teaching conditions on the island, I was teaching 7th grade English grammar in an un-air-conditioned crowded trailer in nearby Charleston County, SC. I was also attending graduate school at the Citadel, Conroy’s alma mater. (Of course, being female, I couldn’t attend classes at during the day. The Citadel’s graduate program was at night and during the summer.) So, you might say that I crossed paths with Conroy, albeit at a distance.

In 1974, The Water is Wide was made into Conrack, a movie starring Jon Voight, and Conroy’s successful literary career was assured. I liked the movie, but the book was better.

But back to the censorship issue: There will always be parents who object to books that might corrupt their innocent little darlings. About fifteen years or so ago at a middle school where I taught, a fellow English teacher told some of us about having to design a separate literature unit for one of her students whose parents didn’t want her corrupted by the literature unit the class was studying. Yeah, no telling how the study of Greek mythology might corrupt a kid!

When I was a kid, back in the early 50s, I read a book that was about parental neglect, violence, cannibalism, and witchcraft. This book should have scarred me for life, right? However, I don’t think reading Hansel and Gretel corrupted me at all.

One thing I know, as both a former kid and former teacher, is that a sure way to get kids to read a book is to tell them they aren't allowed to.

"All life connects. Nothing that happens is meaningless."
Pat Conroy

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Blogger CountryDew said...

Sigh. I ran into this Friday myself; I walked into an office and some mothers were bristling over a book a 14-year-old was assigned because it had the word "t.i.t.s" in it, as best I could tell. They wanted to know what I thought and I told them I didn't believe in censureship at all, plus I don't have children so I'm not the person to ask. I know this comes up every year about various books and I never know why.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Amy Hanek said...

I read that article as well. It is very sad!

3:24 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I am not familiar with these Conroy books, however, I am quite sure I would have issues with many books that are in public school libraries under the guise of "literature." Certainly there are hundreds of other books that do not carry explicit adult themes, or be rated R in a movie theater.

I know this could be a never-ending debate, on both sides. It is impossible to draw "a line in the sand" as to what may or may not be "okay" by anyone's standards.

As a parent, I find it disturbing that the school board in question is reportedly trying to "appease the students." That's absurd.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

Parents, not the government, should be the ones to draw the line for what their kids read. However, many kids today know much more about the world than kids a generation—or even a decade—ago.

A decade ago, I was teaching in an inner city school. I was appalled then at what some of these kids knew, did, spoke about, and sometimes bragged about. And this was before MySpace! Heck, I'm appalled at some of the stuff I see on TV or read in the newspaper nowadays.

From teaching in both public school and college, I know that college-bound students need to have a strong background in literature. I also know that they need to have discussions with older people—both parents and teachers—about the ideas that some of these books contain and why some of these ideas might not be good ideas.

Maybe my experience in teaching public school is why I'm now a proponent for home-schooling.

9:31 AM  

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