If you’re experiencing déjà vu right now, don’t worry because we are too! Just over a month after The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was restored to classrooms in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, the popular teen novel’s inclusion on a school reading list has again been challenged, this time by the mother of a 9th grader in Tampa, Florida. In a letter to officials at Wharton High School, Lori Derrico says that her daughter “lost a big chunk of innocence” by reading the book and asks that it be removed from the summer reading list for incoming freshmen.
Although there was an alternate reading assignment available — John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, which has seen its own share of challenges since being published in 1959 — this was not made clear on the school’s website, where the reading list was posted. Nevertheless, Derrico says that Perks shouldn’t even be an option because it deals with sexual situations and drug use. In her letter, she asked:
What happened to To Kill a Mockingbird, The Secret Life of Bees, Life of Pi, The Great Gatsby, The Giver, or Three Cups of Tea or any of the other thousands of award-winning books that don’t mention sex positions for teens and homosexuals or doing drugs with school faculty[?]
Ironically, three of the six books Derrico mentions — To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and The Giver — have been challenged or banned in the past. (It’s almost as if books that have something interesting to say are also likely to offend different people for different reasons!) The Hillsborough County school district has yet to respond to the challenge beyond pointing out the alternate book, but rest assured that CBLDF and the Fund-sponsored Kids’ Right to Read Project will again be watching closely to ensure that one parent is not allowed to dictate what all students may read.
Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.