File this one under “Huh?”
Michigan couple Matt and Barb Dame have asked officials at Salem High School in Plymouth-Canton, Michigan, to pull both Beloved by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and Waterland by Graham Swift from their AP English literature class.
According to the NY Daily News, the Dames have managed to, “through a series of public meetings that sound deeply painful, [pull] both books from the curriculum, at least temporarily.”
The Dame’s biggest complaint? That Beloved is … wait for it: pornographic.
Reports Patch’s John McKay:
Barb Dame argued that ‘Beloved’ was a fictitious account set upon its real-life backdrop of slavery, and contained gratuitous language, violence and sex acts that provide no historical context for the reader. She also argued the book was given an 870 Lexile rating, which rates the complexity of the language within a work. A Lexile score of 870 equates to about a fifth-grade reading level. She compared its Lexile rating to Roald Dahl’s ‘James and the Giant Peach.‘”
LitStackers, in order for me to finish graduate school, I had to read–no, it’s better to say “have intimate knowledge”–of Beloved. It’s a beautiful, tragic story about a woman, Sethe, so very desperate to protect her children from the shackles of slavery that she attempts killing them. Morrison based the novel on the life of Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery in 1856 Kentucky by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. A posse arrived to retrieve her and her children under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave slave owners the right to pursue slaves across state borders. Margaret killed her two-year-old daughter rather than allow her to be recaptured.
Beloved is a graphic, haunting portrayal of slavery, of the denigration that female slaves/former slaves especially, had to endure. It is not, as the Dames alleged, pornographic. It is honest and real and a brilliant exposé on how slaves endured the atrocities visited upon them with brief instances of love and laughter, and the fractured families they created within their communities.
As for Waterland, reports Michigan’s Observer & Eccentric:
“[Matt Dame] pointed out that the objectionable parts of Waterland had, in the past, been omitted by an ‘inappropriate’ label, but that the practice was not done with the newest texts.”
From the NY Daily News:
That’s a great idea — let’s censor passages in texts if we don’t like them. And maybe, if we don’t like entire books, we can throw them in a bonfire and burn them. And if we don’t like ideas, we can make those ideas illegal, too. And if we don’t like certain groups of people because we’ve decided those people are somehow ‘inappropriate’ in their beliefs or habits or appearance we can …
The worst part of this debacle is that the majority of parents and students are in support of AP English teacher Brian Read, who had been teaching both books and who, this week, surely deserves a drink on the house.
Samantha Oliver of Canton, a 2008 graduate who studied in the AP English program, she said she found Waterland a ‘challenging, enriching (book) that greatly contributed to my education.’ The sexual passages are ‘not the main focus’ of the book, she said, instead calling them ‘plot devices to advance broader themes.’”
You hear that, Barb and Matt? You just got told by a kid who’s probably half your age. Rest assured that she speaks for every other sane person in America.