Laura Murphy wants people to know that she is no book burner . . . just a book banner. The Fairfax County mother of four has been campaigning to ban the Pulitzer-prize-winning American novel “Beloved” from the school system due to its depictions of bestiality, rape, and murder. She says that her teenage son read the book as a senior in his Advanced Placement English class and was traumatized with nightmares as a result. Now she wants to ban the book for any child to read.
“Beloved” depicts the harrowing life of a mother who killed her child to protect it from a life in bondage. In receiving the Pulitzer prize, the citation says that Toni Morrison wrote “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, giv[ing] life to an essential aspect of American reality.” That however is a bit too much reality for Murphy. She has campaigned for six months to ban the book and school board members are now reading the book as part of the long appellate process.
The fact that this book is being read by seniors in advanced placement English is a particularly important fact. Murphy’s son is one year from college and being sent into the world as an adult. He wanted to take advanced English which deals with a higher level of reading and reading material. Even if his mom succeeds in banning this book, he will face the same nightmares in college where such books are common.
I respect Murphy’s commitment to her child and her work as a member on school committees. However, her protection of her son from these forms of literature does not serve his interests any more than banning it for others. These books can shock and disturb students. However, they also challenge their preconceptions and expose them to extraordinary writing. Indeed, it is Morrison’s passion and skills as a writer that produces such intense responses.
Murphy insists that “I’m not some crazy book burner.” No, she would be a book banner who (for students and teachers wanting to read this book in school) is like a book burner without the fire.
Source: Washington Post