Highland Park High School announced it would be suspending seven books from the high school reading list, just in time for Banned Books Week. So what's wrong with the books? Each of the seven, award-winning texts feature themes about sexuality or include passages that some parents find too racy.
Highland Park parents first raised their objections to the "Recommended Outside Reading" list last spring. The list contains more than 250 titles, and is a supplement to classroom required reading. The Approved List includes ROR titles, summer reading, and classroom curriculum. Each book must go through a review process through a selection committee, which is composed of parents and teachers. The seven books that have been suspended from the list will undergo another review process that, The Dallas Morning News reports, could take several months.
Highland Park High School Principal Walter Kelly had previously expressed his support for contemporary literature in the classroom. "We don't want to deny students access to certain piece of literature just because it hasn't gone through decades of review," Kelly said just a few months ago.
"Parents always have the option to refuse having their kids read a book, and it's our responsibility to provide an alternative work," Kelly said in July. "If a parent disagrees, they can request that the book is removed from the list. And for those books that are questionable, the department does send home a note."
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Now, Highland Park HS has temporarily removed the objectionable books from the list for all students. Kelly sent out a statement on Monday that acknowledged the parents' objections. "I understand that some of the choices made within our school jeopardized the trust that some families have in us," he said. "When we discover problems, we work to remedy them in good faith."
The primary objection to the books were sexual references and promiscuity: Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, and John Green's An Abundance of Katherines each took the ax last week. Parents cited explicit passages and promiscuous content. Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower had already been removed from the list earlier this summer after coming under parental criticism.
Highland Park is hardly alone: Each of the seven books have been frequently banned in districts across the country. In addition to sexually overt rhetoric, two of the banned books also feature prominent minority perspectives: Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and Sherman Alexie's National Book Award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
In addition, two suspended selections tell stories of poverty and financial hardship: Pulitzer-prize winning journalist David K. Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America and Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle. Oddly enough, Walls is scheduled to appear at the Highland Park Literary Festival in February.