U.S. School Removes 'Extremely Vulgar' Jonathan Safran Foer Book From Curriculum

Human rights campaigners describe the action as 'discrimination by government officials' and warn of constitutional issues.

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The cover of 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,' by Jonathan Foer.
The cover of 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,' by Jonathan Foer.Credit: Screenshot

The decision by an Illinois school to ban a book by prize-winning author Jonathan Safran Foer has aroused the ire of human rights groups in the United States, according to a report in the Journal Gazette &Times-Courier.

The novel, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," follows nine-year-old Oskar, the son of a 9/11 victim, as he attempts to track down the purpose of a key he found in his father's cupboard.

The book was removed from the curriculum of Mattoon High School, in Mattoon, Illinois, following complaints by parents that it was "extremely vulgar" and described sexual acts.

“Parents should have the right to determine what their students are exposed to in the classrooms,” said school principal Michele Sinclair.

"The bottom line is, these are still kids. Yes, they are young adults, but they are on the cusp of adulthood.”

But a campaign of human rights groups, including the Kids’ Right to Read Project, described the action as "discrimination by government officials." Altering the school's curriculum in response to individual objections "means privileging the moral or religious beliefs of some families over others," the coalition said.

“Removing a book with recognized literary and pedagogical merit – one that has been taught for several years simply because some disapprove of it not only disserves the educational interests of students, but also raises serious constitutional concerns.”

In a letter to the newspaper, a reader suggested that the school give parents the option of choosing to have their children read another book while allowing the rest to read Foer’s book. "This way, parents get a choice and say in their teenager’s education, but the school is not supporting curriculum-wide censorship," the reader wrote.

In Michigan recently, a school book fair chose not to feature the latest novel in Dav Pilkey’s internationally bestselling "Captain Underpants" series due to its inclusion of a gay character.

In "Everything is illuminated," Jewish writer Foer's first book, the protagonist travels to the former Jewish shtetl of Trochenbrod in the Ukraine (previously in eastern Poland) to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life.

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