Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The House of the Spirits: Threatening Letters, ACLU Rally, Final Vote to Determine Fate of Book in Watauga County Schools This Week

North Carolina has been such a bubbling lava bed of crazy lately, it's been easy to miss some of the individual bubbles.

Many of you are no doubt aware that Invisible Man was banned in a North Carolina county last September--physically removed from the library shelves of public schools--before worldwide ridicule led to an unbanning the following week, which happened to be Banned Books Week itself.

No lessons were learned, because a parent complained about Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits at the board of education meeting in Boone on Oct. 14. This led to Allende herself writing a letter to defend her book's inclusion in the classroom, and by the time I got wind of the controversy in December (When I thought of Watauga County last fall, it was only because of attempts to suppress the college vote by moving the campus precinct to an inconvenient location), the book had survived two appeals. I thought the matter was over. I read the copy of The House of the Spirits that Wendy had given me years earlier and talked about the book with my daughter, who'd read the book as part of her IB curriculum.

But no. The parent made a final appeal to the Watauga Board of Education in January, which will determine its fate Thursday night. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina will rally with members of the community tomorrow afternoon before the meeting in support of the book. North Carolina poet laureate Joseph Bathanti will be on hand as well. The rally be held at Appalachian State University, in the Table Rock Room in the Plemmons Student Union at 4 p.m.

In the meantime, police are having to investigate threatening letters that Watauga High School teachers received on Feb. 17 concerning the teaching of The House of the Spirits. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if it turns out to be one of Franklin Graham's minions who issued the anonymous threats, but I'm cynical that way.

Last month, attempts by a Brunswick county commissioner to have A Color Purple banned were defeated 3-2 by the school board there.


  1. If it's any consolation, parents in a school district here in MN got an appearance by Rainbow Rowell cancelled last fall, because, gosh, her book for teens had profanity and teens thinking about sex. And we know those things would never happen. With teens. (I'm happy to add she's in town this week by invitation of another school district, who asked her to speak at three locations.)

  2. Yay! I'm glad to hear she's finally getting to visit. I knew she was very upset when her appearance was cancelled.

    I'd given a copy of E&P to my teenage niece last spring and she was thoroughly disgusted when I sent her a link about what those parents thought of the book.

    I guess the real consolation is knowing that the attempts to ban books generate interest in reading the books. My co-worker started reading House of the Spirits last night.

  3. Very true. The kerfuffle here in MN is why I picked up E&P in the first place, and was so glad I did.

  4. Even here, where we had a science teacher teaching young earth creationism in the middle school, we haven't had this kind of controversy over fiction!

  5. Down in South Carolina, Jeanne, there's a state senator trying to withhold funding to the University of Charleston for having chosen Fun Home last year for its suggested read for the incoming freshmen.

    People are mad as hatters these days. It's unreal.

  6. Excellent reporting Susan. I agree with you that attempts to ban books lead to increased interest in the books. We know that teens, at least the unbowed ones, just naturally go after whatever the adults say is bad or shouldn't be known about. If it hadn't been for banned books in my youth I may never have read Lady Chatterley's Lover, etc.

  7. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Good news! The House of the Spirits has been fully retained for the sophomore honors class! You can go to The Watauga High School Students Right to Read Facebook page and check it out...
    ...and Isabel's blog...
    We here in Boone, NC appreciate your support.


A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...