December 15, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Allende’s ‘House of the Spirits’ Challenged in NC High School

A parent at Watauga High School in Boone, North Carolina, has challenged the use of Isabel Allende’s novel The House of the Spirits (Knopf, 1982) in the school’s English curriculum and is asking the Board of Education to consider its removal from the district,  local newspaper the Watauga Democrat has reported.

According to the report, the parent calls the book—which was selected for her son’s sophomore honors English class—”horrific,” “graphic,” and “immoral,” in her plea before the board last week.

Allende’s award-winning debut novel, a work of magical realism, tells the story of three generations of the Trueba family through triumph and tragedy. It was originally published in Spanish as La casa de los espíritus. It has been translated into more than 20 languages.

The parent, who read the book in its entirety, says her complaint centers on concerns by her and other parents that the book’s “challenging themes and ideas” are lost among graphic descriptions of violence, according to the report. The Watauga Democrat also notes that students were offered Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as an alternative assignment.

In the Watauga County Schools, parents may challenge educational texts through a three-step appeal process: first at the school level, then to a Board of Education review committee, then to the Board of Education at large. Decisions made by the board apply to all schools in the system.

According to the report, the parent wants the book removed from the district entirely.

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson ( is a former News Editor ofSLJ.