Despite a school-level review committee’s recent decision that The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is appropriate for a 10th grade Honors English class, the Buncombe County, North Carolina, parent and former school board member who wants it out of the classroom is pushing forward with her challenge. Lisa Baldwin objects to depictions of “homosexuality and sexually explicit scenes” in the book.
Even though the teacher notified parents and students in advance of the assignment that The Kite Runner includes potentially disturbing content, including rape, and that they could as always opt for an alternate book, Baldwin says that the notification should have clearly stated that “it was the homosexual rape of a child.” While the challenge is pending, students are instead reading the alternate assignment, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.
Baldwin’s challenge will now be considered by a district-wide review committee, which will issue a report and recommended action to the school board. The board will then vote on The Kite Runner’s fate in the classroom. Thus far, the district and many parents have been supportive of the book and the teacher who assigned it, so there is a strong likelihood of a positive outcome.
Last week, the investigative news website Carolina Public Press posted a whopping 882 pages of emails between Baldwin and district officials that were obtained via Freedom of Information Act request. We have not had a chance to comb through all of them yet, but one interesting nugget came on page 19, where Baldwin mentioned in an email to AC Reynolds High School principal Doris Sellers that she is also concerned about another frequently challenged book, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Baldwin wrote:
I read the book last year when my son remarked that he didn’t care for it. It was quite shocking when I compared it to the innocuous description on his summer reading list. I am surprised that it is now a book considered for classroom instruction.
While Baldwin was obviously trying the pressure the school to preemptively rethink Absolutely True Diary’s inclusion in the curriculum, we hope that Sellers and her staff will stand firm and make their decision based on the book’s educational suitability, not Baldwin’s assessment of the content. As for The Kite Runner, the school board will most likely address the challenge at its meeting on June 30, after the review committee has had time to read the book and prepare its report. We will be watching for further developments!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.