Despite a mother and former school board member’s contention that The Kite Runner is inappropriate for a 10th grade Honors English class, a district-wide review committee in Buncombe County, North Carolina unanimously recommended last week that the school board allow the book to remain in classrooms. The novel by Khaled Hosseini still faces a school board vote on June 30, but given the overwhelming community support for it, the outlook seems positive.
The Kite Runner was challenged earlier this year by Lisa Baldwin, who objected to depictions of “homosexuality and sexually explicit scenes.” A school-level review committee decided in May that the book was appropriate for the 10th grade Honors English class, especially since teacher Brooke Bowman gave students the option to skip the potentially disturbing rape scene or choose an alternate reading assignment, All Quiet on the Western Front. Baldwin appealed the first review committee’s decision, meaning that according to district policy the book cannot be used in the classroom until the challenge is resolved. The entire class read All Quiet on the Western Front instead.
CBLDF joined Kids’ Right to Read Project in sending a letter to the district in advance of the appeal, defending The Kite Runner. At an open hearing for Baldwin’s appeal last week, she employed a circular tactic we’ve seen before in other cases: citing the book’s frequently challenged status as a reason for it to be banned. She also elaborated on her particular objections to the book, including “inaccurately assigning Judeo-Christian characteristics to a Muslim god.” One other community member spoke in support of Baldwin’s position at the hearing, admitting that while she hasn’t actually read the book, “what I’ve heard about it is quite disturbing.”
Meanwhile, the school district’s official rebuttal was presented by English-language arts and social studies specialist Eric Grant, who pointed out that The Kite Runner is far from the only text in the curriculum that depicts violence:
In this case, as with many other texts in our courses — for example, Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth,’ ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ and ‘Night’ — understanding violence in literature, under the guidance of a trained professional, is appropriate.
When it came time for the more than two dozen members of the review committee to vote on a recommended action for the school board, they unanimously judged the book to be appropriate for 10th grade students. The expected school board vote on June 30 will be the final possible step in the challenge process according to district policy, so perhaps next year’s Honors English students can actually read the book their teacher chose.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.