Quill and Quire

Book news

« Back to

Murakami novel removed from New Jersey high school reading list

Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s 1987 novel Norwegian Wood has been removed from the summer reading list for students at a New Jersey high school. The move comes only a month after Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer were banned by a Missouri high school.

According to the Guardian, after a host of complaints from parents, the best-selling Murakami book, which centres around a young man and his relationship with two troubled girls, was yanked from the required reading list for honours English students entering Grade 10 at Williamstown High School.

Williamstown’s paper, the Gloucester County Times, reported that parents object to a scene in the novel, which depicts a graphic lesbian sex scene between a 31-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl. Robin Myers, a mother whose daughter was assigned the book, says she didn’t think it was relevant for any teenager and was shocked at the school’s selection.

And that’s not all.  The school also put the kibosh on Nic Sheff’s New York Times best-selling memoir Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, because of a drug-fueled homosexual orgy.  The book was intended for senior honours English students.

From the Guardian:

Chuck Earling, superintendent of Monroe Township Schools in Williamstown, told Fox News that the Williamstown High School summer reading list was drawn up by a committee of teachers, librarians and school administrators, and approved by the board of education. “They read the books. They didn’t feel it was inappropriate based on the language that’s used, common language used on the street,” he said, adding that students watch film and television which is more graphic than the books.

In the future, the summer reading list will include a rating system for books, Earling said, with parents also sitting on the reading list committee. But the superintendent told the Gloucester County Times that despite the controversy over this year’s selection of titles, the school will not necessarily play it safe in the future. “You want to spur interest in kids’ reading that fits their needs not that of people in the 1930s,” he said. “Interests change.”