I loathe stories like this: stories where a ridiculous controversy leads to the closing of a door. From The Muskegon Chronicle:

A high school English teacher in Shelby has been ordered to remove a book by a Pulitzer- and Nobel-award-winning author from her curriculum after members of the community objected to its profanity, sexual references and violence.

“Song of Solomon,” a book by Toni Morrison about an African-American man living in Michigan, was ordered removed from a list of books students could choose to read in Jane Glerum’s advanced placement English class.

School staff and students say that other books may also be censored after a group of community members began complaining about their content. Those books include “The Color Purple,” a book by Alice Walker about an African-American woman abused and raped by her father and husband, and “Johnny Got his Gun” an anti-war book about a severely wounded soldier by Dalton Trumbo.

There’s more to this story, and I encourage you to read it, if only to fan the smoke around your ears. What are these people thinking? Or are they thinking at all? And how is ignorance preferable to the rich conversation that can result when intelligent young people read books that make them think?

Because here at January Magazine we like to reward those who would ban books by making sure the books protested against get lots of extra attention, in case you missed Morrison’s Song of Solomon, it was published in 1977 by Alfred A. Knopf and the most current paperback edition was published by Vintage in 2004.

Wikipedia tells us that Song of Solomon “won the National Books Critics Award, was chosen for Oprah Winfrey’s popular book club, and was cited by the Swedish Academy in awarding Morrison the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature. Barack Obama has listed it as one of his favorite books of all time.”

This is one of the books that’s been on my personal must-read list for a long time. Thanks to the efforts of a handful of narrow-minded parents in Shelby, Michigan, I’m going to order a copy from my local bookseller right now.

News Reporter

7 thoughts on “Toni Morrison Novel Banned in Michigan High School

  1. Lousy news for a Monday morning. I really dislike the fact that a minority of people can get a book off a library shelf or out of a lesson plan.

    BTW, both hyperlinks go to the same brief story.


  2. Ridiculous. I would like a poll of upset parents who have actually read the book. I feel for the students being depraved of a great piece of literature. How can they grow and learn to think for themselves with their ignorant parents looking over their shoulders? It breaks my heart.

  3. Looking for the irony within the offensive, I would offer this speculation: Those who would ban Toni Morrison’s SONG OF SOLOMON would champion the THE SONG OF SONGS BY SOLOMON in the Hebrew scriptures (a.k.a., THE SONG OF SOLOMON in the Old Testament); the eroticism of the sacred text does not offend the sensibilities of the book-banners, but the freedom of expression in secular literature is somehow fair game for their narrow-mindedness. Perhaps someone geographically close to the argument will force the parents in Shelby, Michigan, to confront and defend the irony.

    Updating yesterday’s post about Song of Solomon being pulled from the curriculum of an AP English class at Shelby High School in western Michigan: WZZM reports that the school board voted 4 to 3 to reinstate the book in the class, though apparently it’s a moot point. According to a Ludington Daily News story, the class won’t be taught next year, due to lack of interest. Which makes this tale all the weirder: If the class isn’t going to happen next year, and the school year is almost over—graduation day is May 29th. Go Tigers!—why did the superintendent so forcefully lay down the law just two days ago? Regardless, nobody who has a problem with Toni Morrison’s novel has volunteered his or her opinion to a reporter, nor appeared by name in any of the news stories about the kerfuffle. The WZZM story notes only that at the school board meeting, “parents said the book’s content is unacceptable and compared it to pornography.”

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