After months of contentious and sometimes divisive debate, the fate of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits is set to be decided tomorrow evening. The award-winning novel was challenged in Watauga High School in Boone, North Carolina, and this is the third (and hopefully final) review of the book. CBLDF signed not one, but two letters in defense of the book (both letters appear below).
CBLDF joins coalition efforts like the one in defense of The House of the Spirits to protect the freedom to read comics. Censorship manifests in many ways, and the unique visual nature of comics makes them more prone to censorship than other types of books. Taking an active stand against all instances of censorship curbs precedent that could adversely affect the rights upon which comics readers depend.
The House of the Spirits follows several generations of the Trueba family and draws on Allende’s personal experiences. It has garnered critical acclaim since its 1982 publication, including being named the best novel of the year in Chile, and it has found a regular place in high school curricula, including in North Carolina’s own Common Core curriculum.
Chastity Lesesne filed a complaint against the book in October after it was assigned to her son in a sophomore honors English class. Lesesne called the book “graphic,” “immoral” and “pornographic,” but the first review committee unanimously disagreed with her assessment that the depictions of sex, rape, and violence are unacceptable for high school students. Lesesne appealed the decision, and a second committee also unanimously agreed that the book should remain in the curriculum.
Despite two unanimous votes in support of the book, Lesesne wasn’t content to walk away. She appealed the decision yet again, leaving the book’s fate in the hands of the Watauga County School Board. The board convened a special meeting earlier this month to discuss the book, and the debate in defense of the book has been vigorous. From the CBLDF-sponsored Kids’ Right to Read Project:
Students have been very active in defense of the book, though some have also weighed in on the side of removing it. Allende herself has also weighed in on the subject, advocating publicly in defense of the book and its teacher, Mary Kent Whitaker, who is coincidentally also Watauga Teacher of the Year. North Carolina poet laureate Joseph Bathanti also wrote a letter of support.
Dozens of citizens, parents and students rushed to the school board meeting to speak publicly and share their views about the book. On February 10, the turnout was so huge, the meeting had to be moved to a larger space. You can view some of the public comments below.
The school board will meet tomorrow, February 27, for final comments and to make their decision. KRRP lays out a few ways you can participate in the defense of the book:
YOU CAN HELP. Send a letter right now to the Watauga County school board in defense of teachers’ rights to select and teach works of literature, based on their experience and judgment. Support students’ rights to academic freedom and a quality education that prepares them for the real world beyond the walls of their high school and the borders of their hometown. Support literature that brings us closer to every type of human experience, encourages us to marvel at the world and serves as a lesson in human empathy.