Toni Morrison too violent for High School.

Via every book blogger on the web a high school in Shelby, Michigan has banned Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. The article states that “members of the community objected to its profanity, sexual references and violence.” Oh My.

The book was removed from an AP English course. I found the syllabus (a very thorough rendering of “classic” works and contemporary works) via Mark Athitakis’s blog “American Fiction Notes” But the feckless community members who began the protest either have a problem with Morrison, or have failed to read most of the western canon.

What are some of the titles left on the list?

Crime and Punishment (Not violent at all!); Paradise Lost (A sympathetic reading of Lucifer after the fall); Othello (Guy commits suicide after being tricked into killing his wife); Oedipus the King (Boy king gets left for dead, marries mother, kills father)

There may be signs of hope. According to the article, linked above, the Superintendent removed the book from the curriculum, but students can still check it out from the library. Fastest way to get teenagers to do something is to deny them access to it.

  • I think the logic is that the non-banned books won’t actually get read, what with the old-fashioned language and shit. That and the logic that high school kids know nothing of profanity, sex, or violence.

  • this is sort of disheartening (i’m originally from michigan). i read morrison’s the bluest eye in high school.

    has anyone brought up to these protesters the violence in the other books in the curriculum? it strikes me as odd that they’re targeting morrison’s book.

  • Damn that is a solid reading list…

    Still, this reminds of that scene in Field of Dreams… you know, the book one. I dunno how that book got singled out though, THAT is the mystery of the whole thing. Did Toni run over someones cat or something back in the day?

  • livininphilly

    Did anyone notice that the quote at the beginning of the syllabus is a Toni Morrison quote? Banning books is absolutely ridiculous and makes me so angry when i hear about it. The deliberate diminishment of the freedom of expression and intellectual pursuit gets me all up in arms. For anyone interested there is a national celebration of banned books every year sometime in late september/early october. During that week there are all sorts of literary events celebrating the reading of books that have been banned in the past.

  • Beth

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was removed, in part, because the instructors were ill-prepared to teach it. Towards the bottom of the syllabus, the sloppy comparison of the film version of “The Color Purple” with _Song of Solomon_ gives me pause and suggests a teacher that hasn’t done much work with the African American literary tradition. The syllabus says, “In each novel, the authors explore family connections and how they shape our self-image and our dealings with the rest of society. Students will compare the main characters search for self and dignity against the challenges of racism and family conflict.”

    (It would make far more sense, for example, to compare Toni Morrison’s _The Bluest Eye_–which, out of Morrison’s body of work, is the one that smart high school students could have a chance at understanding in a class that doesn’t seem to offer sufficient time to spend on any 1 text–with Alice Walker’s _The Color Purple_, as the two novels clearly resonate with one another and one could argue that Walker’s is a response to and/or an extension of Morrison’s. Any number of other comparisons of Af Am lit could have been done to more fruitful ends than that offered on the syllabus.) The comparison on the syllabus is sloppy in that it is mainly predicated on both novels being written by black women and depicting black people, and little else. What novels *don’t* deal with notions of the self, society, and family conflict? African American novels do indeed contend with issues of racism, but that issue alone does not define the African American literary tradition.

    (Oh, and above, it should say, *Song* of Solomon.)

  • fangirlinbondage

    Banning is rather harsh, but Song of Solomon is a difficult book. Which is no excuse, of course, but these books might also require some teacher training seminars or something.
    I remember in high school we read Things Fall Apart and a whole lot of bad teaching about Africa went down.

  • Jane

    As the teacher of the above-mentioned class, I will tell you I have had extensive training in teaching AP; the syllabus barely touches the surface of the issues we discuss not only with this book but with other books. Honestly – we didn’t even read or watch The Color Purple this year because 1) we ran out of time, and 2) it isn’t nearly as complex as Song, so we spent the time on the more complex novel.

    Fortunately, in a 4-3 vote, the school board did re-instate the novel back into the curriculum. Unfortunately, I have been maligned in the press, in letters to the editor and in at least two churches in the community. The issue is far from over, but I’m lucky to have a slim majority of board members who see the value in Morrison’s book.