And every year at this time an updated list of challenged reading material gets posted. Here are some from this year’s list. One case had to do with a Saskatchewan school performing a version of Antigone which:
was originally written by Sophocles in Greece in the 5th century B.C. — tells the story of a woman who gives her brother a proper burial in defiance of a tyrant’s edict. Deanne Kasokeo’s adaptation of Antigone is set on a Canadian aboriginal reserve and features a character who is a corrupt band chief. The band’s council members provided no public explanation for banning the play.
Update—The actors defied the ban and performed Antigone in a school on the reserve. Approximately 60 people saw the performance. In press reports, Kasokeo said that the corrupt chief in the play was not a depiction of the Poundmaker Cree Nation chief.
I guess I can see why officials might have been concerned that it was less a play and more a Macbeth-style send-up of local politics but at least the performers weren’t cowed into cancelling their show altogether.
Larmee, Blaise. Young Lions
2011—Officials of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) seized this graphic novella in Buffalo, New York, while artist Tom Neely and a colleague were travelling to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.
Objection—The customs officers found pencil sketches of fictional young people having sexual contact in the book.
Update—After reviewing the book, the CBSA concluded that Young Lions is legally obscene and banned its importation into Canada.
Some images from the book can be seen here, although none of the “obscene” drawings look to be included. Page 74 could be “obscene” to people who hate bathing suits, I suppose, though. Small run of only a thousand books, too. Hardly much of a threat to the morality of Canada’s youth, but whatever. They can see worse in other graphic books that have been allowed in and circulate in their libraries already. Not that I can name any titles, off hand, mind you…
Tremblay, Michel. Contes pour buveurs attardés.
2010—In Laval, Quebec, the religious mother of a student at the École d’éducation internationale tried to persuade the school to ban this collection of short stories. Contes pour buveurs attardés has been a staple of Grade 10 reading lists throughout Quebec for years.
Objection—In the book’s preface, the author says that his stories tackle homosexuality, incest and encounters with the devil (although these references are so allusive that they are almost undetectable). The complainant declared that she did not want her son exposed to “such promotion of Satanism and pedophilia.”
Update—The school board turned down the woman’s demand and teachers kept the book on school reading lists.
Sounds like nothing that’d grip me, but part of an English teacher’s job is to expand horizons and get kids reading things that might fall outside their comfort zones and get them thinking a little. I recall back in university my suitemate lent me her copy of Timothy Findlay’s Not Wanted on the Voyage. It was a strange book to say the least, but vaguely entertaining to me at the time. For her, if I recall correctly, it meant dropping that English class out of sheer repugnance over her professor’s choice to issue it. Each to their own, I guess.
Go back to that challenged book list if you get a chance and see if you’ve read any of those. If you did, what were your impressions of them? Do you agree with the idea that they needed to be challenged or do you think most of the time the challenges are ludicrous and never worth supporting?