February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

North Carolina School Board Decides to Keep The House of Spirits


The House of Spirits has been the object of repeated censorship challenge.

On February 27, North Carolina’s Watauga County School Board voted, 3-2, to keep Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits (Knopf, 1982) in the sophomore honors English curriculum. The board met at the Watauga County Court House, with 200 other attendees, after teachers at the Watauga High School had reported receiving threatening letters for their expressed wishes to keep the book in the school’s curriculum.

In this case, parent Chastity Lesesne led the charge for the book’s removal from the school’s curriculum—but not the school’s library—and formally requested its removal from the sophomore honors English class curriculum.

“This book is saturated with sexually-explicit material that is confirmed to create images in our students’ minds and is intentionally distributed to students without review,” said Lesesne in a February 27 article published on wfdd.org.

Lesesne first challenged the book in October 2013, setting off a heated debate in the community that led to a rally of support for the book, including an impassioned appeal to the Watauga County School Board from Allende herself.

Isabel Allende

Author Isabel Allende / Creative Commons: Shawn Calhoun

Mary Kent Whitaker, a 30-year veteran English teacher at Watauga High School, says The House of Spirits teaches students how to engage in critical thinking during difficult issues.

“This book has been vetted extensively,” she was quoted as saying in a February 27 article. “It passes the test for appropriateness for the honors sophomore [English] curriculum.”

Whether Whitaker’s words swayed the vote is uncertain, but for now The House of Spirits remains a part of Watauga’s curriculum.



Carolyn Sun About Carolyn Sun

Carolyn Sun was a news editor at School Library Journal. Find her on Twitter @CarolynSSun.

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  1. Don’t these parents (the ones who are all about censorship) realize that by demanding the removal of a book is only going to make the kids want to read that book all the more? It would certainly work for me!

  2. Adriana says:

    One of the best books I have ever read. Real literature!