By Bob Cronin,
High school students in an Alaska district will no longer discuss several literary classics in class. The Matanuska-Susitna School Board voted 5-2 last week to remove five titles from the list of books teachers can use in elective English classes, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The books stricken are: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison; Catch-22, by Joseph Heller; The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou; and The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. There was no public comment at the meeting. The objections involve depictions of rape and incest—“things that are pretty serious problems, especially in our teenage world,” one school board member said. Another member who voted “yes” said he read a summary of Angelou’s book, which had a description of molestation. “If I were to read this in a professional environment at my office, I would be dragged to the equal opportunity office,” he said.
A district spokeswoman didn’t know whether the books will be pulled from school libraries. But the vote sparked a run on the titles at a bookstore in Palmer, per KTUU. Fireside Books ran out of all five titles in hours. “We were getting five or six [calls] an hour,” the owner said. Another business owner in town announced a contest to reward students who could demonstrate that they’d read all five books. DanaLyn Dalrymple planned to draw five names and present each winner with $100. But she had to rework that after the pot grew. “Within 24 hours, I had about 50 people who were willing to make a donation for a prize,” she said. The bookstore is working with her to get the books to every student who wants to enter the contest. “We’re going to get as many kids a prize as we can,” Dalrymple said.