East Bay News

Teacher pushes for students to read banned books

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A high school English teacher is fighting for the right to assign two controversial books to her advanced placement students. Both books, "Bastard Out of Carolina" and "Waiting" are available in school libraries, but last year the school board banned one of the books from the classroom. On Wednesday night, the issue is up for debate once again.

The board was supposed to make a decision soon, but the teacher who is pushing to bring the books into the classroom admits she doesn't have much hope things will go her way.

The two books mean a lot to English teacher Teri Hu.

"They're authentic. They reflect the real struggles that real people experience when real life happens," says Hu.

They also delve into topics like rape, incest, and adultery. Hu wants seniors in her advanced placement English classes at Washington High School in Fremont to read them, but she needs the school board's permission. Last year, they denied her request to approve just one of the books -- "Bastard Out of Carolina."

"When it comes to some of the rape and the stepfather's relationship with the child, being incestuous, I don't think it's a positive role in terms of reflection of what I think would be good reading material for students," says board member Lili Mei.

"The content and subject matter is questionable. I think there's a certain amount of violence, I think it's not handled in the best way," says board member Larry Sweeney.

"For Larry Sweeney to actually question its literary merit, I found extremely condescending," says Hu.

Last year, two of the five board members felt the book was appropriate for students. Especially because it is currently available in the schools' libraries.

"So if a kid can pick it up and read it on their own, I think I'd feel a heck of a lot more comfortable if they were being guided through it with an experienced lit teacher," says parent Leslie Gupta.

June Cong will be in AP English in the fall and plans to read both books. She hopes the board signs off on them.

"I would probably be getting a lot more out of it if I had help, especially with the stories this year, a lot of them were very ambiguous and you need people there kind of to guide you," says Cong.

If the board once again votes down the books, Hu vows to resubmit them next year.

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fremont, east bay news, lisa amin gulezian
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