Monday, May 9, 2011

The Perks [or not] of Being Controversial

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, was challenged in Clarkstown, NY.  This isn't the first time this has happened to Wallflower and I'm sure it won't be the last.  According to, this is what happened: 
The controversy erupted in early February, when Aldo and Patricia DeVivo of Congers, parents of a Clarkstown High School North junior, contacted the district, saying they objected to their daughter being taught the book in class. They said they found the book morally and religiously reprehensible. 
In keeping with district policy, the student was allowed to pick an alternative book. But the parents said they were not happy with that alternative because their daughter would be the only one reading that book.
Does this sound familiar to you?  It should.  Last year I posted a similar story (though for the life of me I can't remember exactly which post it is now) in which a family was unsatisfied with their child being allowed to read an alternative text.  Somehow this is a terrible tragedy for the child, that they must read a book different than everyone else.  Will this scar the child for life?  Will their friends run off into the night, never to be heard from again now?  Somehow I doubt it.  So what do good parents do when they they want a book away from their child?
Instead they demanded the district withdraw it from the curriculum and pull it from the libraries. They also campaigned to have the book banned, speaking at meetings and contacting officials.
Well, thank goodness for reasonable people that live in the same community, because the book was kept in the classroom and in the libraries.  Take THAT DeVivos!
The Clarkstown Board of Education unanimously voted to keep [The Perks of Being a Wallflower] in the high school English curriculum, ending weeks of furious debate among community members.
No one spoke in opposition to the book. 
The room broke out in applause after the board vote.
As I keep having to come back to in this blog, when your child goes off to school, you have to trust the school to do what is best for the majority and to also do what they can for those who don't agree.  This, however, does NOT mean getting rid of books because you, parents of one student, don't like them.  

I would also like to point out that an absent voice in this story was the voice of the daughter.  I wonder if the parents thought about whether or not their daughter had a problem with the book, or if their daughter had a problem with reading a different text as opposed to everyone else?  We'll never know because no one seems to have asked.

Thanks for listening, and send out some good karma to the Clarkstown Board of Education for the unanimous vote to hold on to Chbosky's book.  They deserve it!


  1. I just read this book for the first time last year and loved it. It's easily, one of my favorite books of all time. I wish I had read it in high school. It's nice to hear about a challenge with a happy ending, especially for a book like "Perks of Being a Wallflower" which has so many "controversial" topics/issues addressed. Thanks for sharing this bit of happy news!

  2. I agree, Rob... it seems like we never do hear the voice of the student concerned when parents challenge a book. There was the one case you posted about when the students as a body opposed the ban, though, if I recall. Still, it seems like it is often not only the book that is being silenced in these cases, and I feel concern for the children of parent such as these, and wonder what other sources of life-enriching material is being denied them.

  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower takes you through the life of an amazing child. A bright young man growing up observing and watching, always writing letters to a person he merely saw at a party. This book will take you on a journey you won't soon forget. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who can read. Chbosky has a talent for capturing your attention and then earning it with his wonderful characters and story line.