Mississippi school district's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' ban raises old censorship debate

Celebrated author Harper Lee died at the age of 89 in her beloved hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Her 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning book "To Kill a Mockingbird" remains one of America's most culturally significant novels.

Mississippi School Board's decision to strike the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird from the eighth-grade curriculum has reignited questions over when, if at all, a book should be banned from a classroom.

After receiving complaints that some of the language in the book made some uncomfortable, the Biloxi School District pulled the book from Language Arts classes, the Sun Herald reported.

Harper Lee's tale of racial inequality in a Southern town, was originally published in 1960. The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is set in the 1930s, when Lee was a child, and uses language common for the time, including a derogatory term for African-Americans. 

Local author Barbara Shoup has some firsthand experience with books being banned. Her adolescent coming of age novel Wish You Were Here made the 1995 list of top 100 banned books. 

"I am appalled," Shoup wrote in an email, saying Lee's tale offers a realistic depiction of life in the South before civil rights.

"If we are going to solve the racial problems we have in our country now, we must confront the truth of how we got to where we are. Good fiction, like Mockingbird, "brings history alive," she said. "If it is uncomfortable to read and discuss, so be it. Most things that matter deeply are."

Others, such as the voice behind the Whiteland High School Theatre program took to Twitter to share dismay.

 

 

Banning the book just because it could lead some to squirm also drew scorn from the Twitter-ati.

 

 

To which one of her followers responded:

 

 

Others tried to parse out just what lay behind the Biloxi school's decision.

 

Another person saw this as part of a broader discussion about freedom of speech. 

 

 

 

Rather than banning the book, he said in another tweet, schools should make reading it a requirement of graduation from high school.

Biloxi school officials said that other resources would be used to teach the themes found in To Kill a Mockingbird. The book is still in the school library.

The Biloxi School District is not the first to ban this novel. To Kill a Mockingbird came in No. 21 on the American Library Association's list of the top 100 Challenged/Banned Books from 2000 to 2009. 

In August, a Hamilton Southeastern Schools board member suggested that the district in Fishers, Indiana remove the book The Kite Runner from the Advanced Placement English reading list. The book includes a graphic same-sex rape scene. 

School officials at the time said that they had not received a formal request to reconsider the use of the book.

 

 

 

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