Interview of Lisa Baldwin, Former member of the Buncombe County Board of Education and Buncombe county parent, April 3, 2018. Interviewed by Rosanna Garris.
This interview was conducted via email.
RG: Here are our questions:
- Your article was primarily about the Kite Runner, but you mentioned The Bluest Eye as well. What is your specific opinion on The Bluest Eye as a book and its use in the classroom. The specific book challenge that we are looking at was in an Honors Junior level class at North Buncombe High School.
- The Media/Technology Advising Committee decided to remove The Bluest Eye from the Honors Junior class book list to the Senior level AP Literature class reading list. What is your opinion on this decision?
- What inspired you and motivated you to blog about and speak out in the Kite Runner case?
- What is your advice to parents that are concerned about materials being used in the classroom?
- What is your advice for educators who want to use more modern and controversial works in their classroom? On your blog you recommend teachers do their “due-diligence”, what does that entail?
- Could you please walk us through what the challenge process was like for you when you when you challenged The Kite Runner?
LB: I am so sorry for not getting back to you. I’ve had a heavy work load coupled with family obligations. I hope you are able to use information from my posts at NC Students First.
My main focus has been on higher academic standards and schools practicing the proper guardianship of children. For example, My Forbidden Face is a much better, more rigorous alternative than the simplistic, narrowly focused Kite Runner novel.
I am an advocate for reading the classics. Teachers and curriculum specialists have low expectations for their students, by spoon feeding pop culture novels like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to them. We need to raise our standards and students will rise to meet them.
I believe that normalizing “abnormal behaviors” in books does everyone a disservice. Case in point, in the Kite Runner, we “learn” that Muslim men rape boys. In The Handmaid’s Tale and The Bluest Eye, abnormal sexual behavior – sexual violence, rape, incest and pedophilia – is also “normalized”. It is unfortunate that many young adult novels are dark. Let’s lift up our young people and teach the classics which have many opportunities to read between the lines and teach important life and moral lessons.
RG: Have you read The Bluest Eye?
LB: I did read The Bluest Eye. It is a highly sexualized novel, with sexual imagery on almost every other page. I can’t see the value of reading about the dysfunction of this fictional family. Selling novels based on shock value seems to be the motivation for the author.
My youngest son made the decision not to take AP English in 12th grade because The Bluest Eye was part of the curriculum. He prefers reading the classics. The offensive language, graphic description of menstruation, boys feeling their groins, and pornographic descriptions of sexual intercourse are inappropriate. I see no value in this fiction novel and the ugliness it portrays – racism taken to an extreme, prostitution as part of daily life and incest, a rarity.
Just to clarify, I have never asked for a book ban. I have questioned the use of these novels in classroom instruction only.