Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kaffir Boy removed from curriculum in Burlingame

An award winning book describing the gritty life of a boy growing up in South Africa before coming to America where he became a tennis player has been banned from the curriculum of Burlingame Intermediate School in northern California (my alma mater), because of a two-paragraph graphic passage describing boys having sex with men in order that they could eat. The book, Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabone and published in 1986, is number 31 in the American Library Association's list of 100 most frequently challenged books in America from 1990 to 2000. The book had been used in the 8th grade class the previous year without challenge. Students were allowed to skip the graphic sections when and if they become uncomfortable, said the school's principle Ted Barone. However, the school district superintendent decided to remove the book from the curriculum late last month after parents complained about the passage.

From my eighth grade days some 45 years ago at the same school, I don't recall what books we were required to read, but do recall reading for extra credit Herman Melville's beautifully written novel Typee, which has been described as being about fish, sex and cannibalism. I learned many new words from reading that book.

Sources: San Mateo Times, April 10; San Diego Union Tribune, April 12.

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