Complain of Gay and ‘Sexually Explicit’ Themes
So much for smart-alecky Easterners turning up their noses at “Okies”: The Union Public Schools district Board of Education in Oklahoma recently voted to allow the book “Buster’s Sugartime” to remain on shelves. The book details the rabbit Buster following around the children of a same-sex couple as they play, make cookies and make maple syrup.
Only a few days later, on Jan. 29, the Washington Post reported that the school system in Culpeper County, in rural Northern Virginia, decided to stop assigning a version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” to students “after a parent complained that the book includes sexually explicit material and homosexual themes.”
The diary was written while the German-Dutch girl, then 13, was in hiding in an Amsterdam attic with family members and others from the Nazis because she was Jewish. The book, which was saved by the people who sheltered the Franks, was published by her father after the war.
Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp along with her sister. All of the people in the attic died except her father. A 1955 play based on the diary is the most popular staple of high-school theater groups, along with “Our Town.”
In the years since its publication, it has become the most famous first-person chronicle of the Holocaust. Historians and literary scholars praise the book’s honest tone and literary qualities. It has long been considered one of—if not the—greatest diaries ever written by a girl in her early teens, and is extremely popular with teen-age readers.
The book is consistently ranked among the major works of the 20th century.
The school system, however, doesn’t agree. The controversy is over the unexpurgated “Diary,” which contains passages that her father edited out of the original edition. An English translation of the “The Diary of Anne Frank, The Revised Critical Edition” was published in 1995 to near-universal acclaim.
Scholars, educators and historians universally praised the new edition as a more complete version of Anne’s work and presenting a more complex and nuanced portrait of the young writer and her cramped milieu. Since its original publication, it has continually been in print, and was a best-seller on its release.
While the new version will be available in the school library, teachers are only to assign the earlier version. The board was responding to one parent’s complaint. The board has a stated policy of reviewing such complaints.
In this case, “The person came in, and the decision was made that day,” according to a spokesperson.
“Something that one individual finds controversial or offensive or objectionable may be really valuable to other learners in that community,” Angela Maycock of the office for intellectual freedom of the American Library Association, told the Post.
Commenters on Free Republic would disagree. “It seems likely that someone decided saw an opportunity to sneak homosexuality into school reading material and did so,” wrote one.” “Good for the parent,” wrote another.
In 1983, an Alabama textbook committee called for the book’s rejection from schools. The reason? It was a “real downer.”
Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, and is an editor for Edge Media Networks, who have allowed SFGN reprint rights to this article.