February 22, 2006

A Town Struggles with a Book Ban, Searches Soul

Posted by Amanda Toering
Thursday June 02nd 2005, 11:32 am
Filed under: General

The New York Times tells the story of Muhlenberg, PA, where controversy bled from attempts to ban young adult book “The Buffalo Tree.”

By a unanimous vote of the board (two of its nine members were absent) “The Buffalo Tree” was banned, officially excised from the Muhlenberg High School curriculum. By 8:30 the next morning all classroom copies of the book had been collected and stored in a vault in the principal’s office. Thus began a still unresolved battle here over the fate of “The Buffalo Tree,” a young adult novel by Adam Rapp that was published eight years ago by HarperCollins and has been on the 11th-grade reading list at Muhlenberg High since 2000. Pitting teachers, students and others who say the context of the novel’s language makes it appropriate for the classroom against those parents and board members who say context be damned, it is a dispute illustrative of the so-called culture war, which, in spite of its national implications, is fought in almost exclusively local skirmishes.


But the town is not militantly right wing. It is significant that even the more vociferous opponents of the book did not insist it come off the school library shelves (though thieves apparently took care of that). In fact, on April 14, as soon as Dr. Yarworth discovered that an overzealous underling had had copies of the novel stored in the school vault, he ordered them returned to storage in classrooms so it could still be read by students who sought it out.

“I wanted us to comply with the narrowest possible interpretation of the board’s decision,” Dr. Yarworth said.

What followed was a period of unusual activism here.

It’s a remarkable — and classic — story.

In the NYT.

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