If you know just a little bit about me, you know that my first career was as a high school teacher and my second as a college administrator who had lots of opportunities to teach. If you know a smidge more about me, you know that teaching is my calling, it is the thing that I probably do best, that my years spent in a high school classroom were probably as fun for me as a winning streak is for an NFL football player (aye, if only my NFL footballers were on a winning streak right now). If you have read the acknowledgements in Hijas, you know that my love affair with books started at a young age– my dad treated me to a very long library outing every Saturday when I was growing up. It was better than ice cream which is hard for me to say because ice cream is my favorite food (one of my dreams in life is to have ice cream only for all of my meals one birthday. McDonalds for breakfast. Coldstone for lunch. Baskin Robbins for dinner). I have been writing stories since I could craft a sentence (Peabody Penguin Learns to Swim is the only children’s book I’ve written, and I wrote it when I was a child). And when I took junior year English– American Literature– the world cracked open for me. In the acknowledgments for Hijas, I wax poetic about those who have educated me, and I especially wax poetic about my junior year English teacher, Ms. Patsy Grimes. She could have chosen all sorts of books for our curriculum. It just so happened that she chose ones (well, with the exception of Moby Dick) that were perfect for the intense, thoughtful, simmering observer in me. God bless Patsy Grimes and teachers everywhere. They do so much with so little. I can tell you stories. I should. Hmm, maybe I will. But, in the meantime, what I want to do is point you in the direction of this story. It seems the school board in Charleston, West Virginia has received requests from parents to ban The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, two books by Pat Conroy, from the English curriculum. I would laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. But it’s too serious and sad for that.
One of my dearest friends from high school just sent me Conroy’s response (and he only responded because one of the high school students affected wrote him) which was really lovely. Lovely because it honors teachers and what they try to do each day, it honors books and their capacity, and it honors the students who have been perceived as too naive, young, vulnerable, whatever by their school board and their parents. Have you seen the world today? Pat Conroy’s books have nothing on the state of the world these kids are inheriting and, seriously, we’re going to worry about Prince of Tides? There is so much I could say, the rant could be long and thorough, but I will spare you for now. For now, I will give you Pat Conroy’s words. And I will say a prayer tonight for teachers everywhere, the books that line my brain and home, and the freedom to read what I would like.