Opinion | The Rise in Book Bans and Censorship

Many thanks to those students who are speaking up at school boards for their right to have books that are important to them. Adults in the community need to take a page out of their book and stand against censorship.

Marilyn Elie
Cortlandt Manor, NY
The writer is a retired school librarian.

To the Editor:

Re “Tennessee Board Bans Teaching of Holocaust Novel” (news article, Jan. 29):

I’m Jewish, from New York City, and I taught at a state university serving low-income Tennessee students for 25 years. So I need to set the record straight.

Every Tennessee fifth grader is required to learn about the Holocaust. My university, with its minuscule fraction of Jewish students, has a Holocaust studies minor. We host an international Holocaust conference every two years.

To convey the magnitude of six million lost, three decades ago teachers in Whitwell, Tenn., asked their eighth-grade class to collect that many paper clips. They ended up with 30 million, sent to the school from people around the world. These are on display in the school’s Children’s Holocaust Memorial, housed in a boxcar from Germany, which may be the most riveting testament of young people working together to vow “Never again.”

People in the rural South have different cultural norms. After moving to Tennessee, I learned you don’t wear in class. But painting a state as yahoos and Holocaust deniers for rejecting cursing or nudity in one book epitomizes the very stereotype we people who study the Holocaust should always abhor.

Janet Belsky
Chicago

To the Editor:

Re “A Disturbing Book Changed My Life,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Sunday Review, Jan. 30):

One could argue that Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” which depicts the fascism and bigotry flourishing in Poland in the 1940s, mirrors a disturbingly similar political climate, albeit to a lesser degree, in America today. Maybe that is the real reason the Tennessee school board preferred to limit this information to its young scholars.

“Books are inseparable from ideas,” Mr. Nguyen notes.

For that reason alone the current book-banning trend in America is an abomination. It does not belong in an educated, open-minded and enlightened society. From the evidence of late, these attributes do not define America today, nor does their paucity offer much promise for the future. The “dumbing down” of America is no longer a joke.

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