Reviews | The rise of book bans and censorship


A big thank you to those students who are speaking out with school boards for their right to have books that are important to them. The adults in the community must remove a page from their book and oppose the censorship.

marilyn elie
Cortlandt Mansion, NY
The author is a retired school librarian.

For the editor:

Regarding “The Tennessee Board Bans Teaching of Holocaust Novel” (news article, January 29):

I’m Jewish, from New York, and taught at a state university serving low-income Tennessee students for 25 years. So I have to set the record straight.

Every fifth-grade student in Tennessee should learn about the Holocaust. My university, with its tiny fraction of Jewish students, has a minor in Holocaust studies. We organize an international conference on the Holocaust every two years.

To express the magnitude of the loss of six million dollars, three decades ago, teachers in Whitwell, Tennessee, asked their eighth-grade class to collect as many paper clips. They ended up with 30 million, sent to school by people from all over the world. These are displayed in the school’s Children’s Holocaust Memorial, housed in a covered wagon in Germany, which may be the most fascinating testimony of young people working together to swear “Never Again”.

People in the rural south have different cultural norms. After moving to Tennessee, I learned that you don’t swear in class. But describing a state as yahoos and Holocaust deniers for rejecting swearing or nudity in a book embodies the very stereotype that we people who study the Holocaust should always abhor.

Janet Belsky

For the editor:

Regarding “A disturbing book changed my life”, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Sunday Review, January 30):

One could say that Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” which depicts fascism and flourishing fanaticism in 1940s Poland, reflects a similar, albeit lesser degree, troubling political climate in America today. today. This may be the real reason why the Tennessee School Board preferred to limit this information to its young college students.

“Books are inseparable from ideas,” notes Mr. Nguyen.

For that reason alone, the current trend of book banning in America is an abomination. He does not belong to an educated, open-minded and enlightened society. Based on recent evidence, these attributes do not define America today, and their rarity does not offer much promise for the future. America’s “dumbing down” is no longer a joke.

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