A parent of a Knightstown (Indiana) High School junior has determined that A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive is inappropriate for their child because of the memoir’s graphic depiction of abuse. Fair enough. As a parent, it is your right–even your responsibility–to determine what your child should be exposed to. In this case, the student was given an alternate book, according to The Courier-Times, my source for this story.
What bothers me, though, is that the parent apparently thinks no one else’s kid should read it, either. That goes too far, and it becomes another case study for Banned Books Week, September 24 through October 1.
Because the parent filed a written complaint, a committee is now following the school policy and will decide whether the book should stay in the 11th-grade curriculum.
I haven’t read the book, but what I’ve read about it is disturbing. The author, Dave Pelzer, alleges torture at the hands of his mother, including starvation, beating, and stabbing. In articles critical of the author, The New York Times Magazine and Slate provide more stomach-turning details (you’ve been warned).
Frankly, this is not a book I want to read. Child abuse is horrific and heart-breaking, but Pelzer’s story is too intense for my taste. And in the NYT article, his relatives dispute his veracity.
However, the Knightstown students have responded to A Child Called “It,” reading it without being nagged and debating it. If I had 16-year-old child, would I let them read this book? Probably, although I might also point them to the NYT and Slate stories. We live in an age when videogames, movies, and comic books expose teens to violence and sometimes even glorify it. Although the book is graphic, the violent person is the villain, and portraying violence as undesirable may be a way to turn kids off to it.
Ultimately, the decision to censor books, games, and other materials rests with the parents for their own children, but not someone else’s.