Committee Keeps Beloved On FL Summer Reading List After “Porn Content” Challenge

September 15, 2015
By
Beloved Toni Morrison

A unanimous committee vote kept Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved on a summer reading list in a Satellite High School in Florida despite a parent’s complaint over what he is calling the “porn content” of the novel.

Hamilton Boone, a parent of a student at the school, submitted his complaint to the committee last week, urging them to have the book pulled from the school’s summer reading list. The book, which is part of a summer reading list for an upper level Advanced Placement literature course, is one of several optional reading titles on the list. This fact isn’t stopping Boone, who admits to not having read the entire book himself, from trying to have the book pulled.

“The fact that I don’t understand the central theme of it is of no consequence to me nor my wife,” commented Boone. “What is of consequence is that we have a 16-year-old son and there are other 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds, young ladies and young men, that have the opportunity to read a book like this in high school. They have enough going on in their lives trying to sort through what is right and wrong, trying to control the hormones that are just flying.”

Although Boone has made his unfounded and shaky case, other parents, teachers, and the committee are standing by the book. As teacher Joanna DiPeppe points out, “Some of the scenes the Boones objected to were the very scenes that were intended to show the effects of the dehumanization of slavery.”

Other parents point out that Boone’s claims are based on the very public fact that he admits to not having read the whole book and as such isn’t looking at the broader context of the passages that he objects. “I looked up the definition of pornography,” said parent and committee member Lisa Griessler. “That is not what I felt when I read those passages, especially when I read them in context.”

This is not the first time, though, that the critically acclaimed book has been unsuccessfully challenged for what some people deem its “pornographic” subject matter. Earlier this year, members of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children submitted letters to the Gilbert, Arizona, public school system to have the book pulled from the curriculum over claims of pornography. In that case board member Jill Humphrey, who helped keep the book in the Gilbert school system, noted, “It is not pornography. I recommend that if you disagree with me, go get the book and read it.”

Despite his weak case and the outpouring of support in the community, associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Cyndi Van Meter suspects that Boone will submit a formal appeal to the district, at which point the book will be further reviewed.

In the meantime, though, educators like Tom Jackson continue to remind people that instead of attempting to ban a book and regulate the educations of all students, “If you don’t like it, put it down and read something else.”

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!

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