Friday, February 09, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: Classic Novels Challenged in Michigan

For further information, contact:
Chris Finan, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, (212) 587-4025, ext. 15
Joan Bertin, National Coalition Against Censorship, (212) 807-6222, ext. 15

For Immediate Release

Free Speech Groups Defend Novels by Morrison, Wright, Vonnegut

NEW YORK, NY, February 8, 2007 -- The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) today joined other free speech advocates in opposing the removal of novels by Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and Kurt Vonnegut from the public high school in Howell, Michigan. In a letter, the groups urged the Howell Board of Education to reject calls to ban Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Wright’s Black Boy, and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. “It is wrong to restrict what students can read based on the complaints of a few individuals,” said ABFFE President Chris Finan. “Curriculum choices should be made by teachers and educational professionals. In this case, they have selected three books that are highly acclaimed and widely used in high school classrooms around the country.” A copy of the letter is online at

The novels have been attacked by some parents and community members who consider them “smut” because they contain sexual themes and profanity. The books’ chief challengers are members of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE). Last year, LOVE failed in an effort to prevent students from reading Erin Gruwell’s The Freedom Writers Diary, the book that inspired the current film starring Hilary Swank.

At a meeting in late January, the Howell Board of Education decided to delay a vote on removing the Morrison, Wright, and Vonnegut novels from the 11th grade English curriculum because two board members were absent. The board will meet again on February 12.

The letter from NCAC and ABFFE was joined by the Association of American Publishers, People for the American Way, Aria Booksellers of Howell, the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation,, PEN American Center, Feminists for Free Expression, and the Youth Advisory Board of the Youth Free Expression Network.

Founded in 1974, NCAC is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups. ABFFE is the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship. It was founded in 1990 by the American Booksellers Association.
UPDATE: The school board has voted to retain the books!


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