November 17, 2017

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Charleston Library Hands Out “Some Girls Are” After School Bans Book

some girls areA South Carolina high school’s decision to pull Courtney Summers’s Some Girls Are (St Martin’s Griffin, 2010) from its freshman summer reading list has led to a public campaign to get the title into students’ hands another way.

Andria Amaral, librarian and young adult services manager at Charleston (SC) County Public Library, received more than 1,000 copies of Summers’s young adult novel after BookRiot editor Kelly Jensen (@catagator) spearheaded an online donation drive to offer the book to students for free. Students are already cracking open the pages.

“They are amazed,” says Amaral. “They say, ‘I can keep it? Can I take another one for a friend?’”

The story chronicles how the tables turn on popular girl and bully Regina Afton. Her former friends, an all-girl clique, turn on her after she reports a sexual assault involving her best friend’s boyfriend. The story won awards from the American Library Association (ALA)’s Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), including its 2011 ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults.

West Ashley High School in Charleston, SC, pulled the title in August from its optional summer reading for freshmen taking Honors English 1 in 2015–16. (Students had the choice of reading Some Girls Are or Paul Volponi’s Rikers High [Viking, 2010].) Parent Melanie MacDonald complained to the school and penned a letter to the Post and Courier expressing concern, in part, about “references to a drug deal, drug use, and a sexual assault/attempted rape, with the victim being told not to tell,” she wrote. After the book was removed from the reading list, another option was offered—Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999).

MacDonald has also filed a formal reconsideration request to the Charleston County School District (CCSD), asking that Some Girls Are not be assigned to her child and that the book’s access be restricted at West Valley High School to only those students whose parents have given permission for their children to read, view, or listen to the work. MacDonald’s request also asks that the title be removed from the school’s library media center’s resource collection.

“The review panel cannot act on the first bullet as the school accommodated this request back in July,” Daniel Head, CCSD’s director for the office of strategy and communication, said by email.Head says, referring to the book not being assigned to MacDonald’s child. “They will make a decision on the other two points and submit their report to the superintendent. The superintendent can accept or reject that report. An appeal to the superintendent’s decision can be made to the Board whose decision is final.”

Summers says she was inundated with emails after the Post and Courier reported the book’s removal from the summer reading list on July 28. She adds that she always wondered if her books would one day face the threat of being removed from a reading list. But it’s not something she wanted to see happen.

“I tend to write about difficult topics, and it’s important to me to approach them honestly, without holding back,” she said by email. “That’s not always a comfortable experience for some readers, and when people are uncomfortable, sometimes their first response is to shut down the thing that’s making them feel that way.”

Amaral hopes instead to get a conversation started around Some Girls Are and the topics it bring up for readers. She is mulling launching a book discussion at a public library branch near West Ashley High School for students and anyone else who wants to attend.

“Hopefully those students denied the opportunity to talk about it in class will have the opportunity to talk about [the book] with their peers,” she says. “But we’re still in the early stages of disseminating the book, because 1,000 copies—that’s a lot!”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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Comments

  1. Thank you Andria for standing up for the freedom to read! I hope you continue to see a positive response from teens and parents!

  2. Debra Johnson says:

    Shades of a Minnesota school district’s attack on Rainbow Rowell’s wonderful book, Eleanor and Park. Beware, book bullies: Your efforts to ban books often have the opposite effect, and that just tickles me pink.