Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel Neverwhere has been returned to classrooms in Alamogordo, New Mexico, after the approval of a review committee and worldwide protest that included a letter signed by CBLDF! District spokesperson Doyle Styling talked to Karyn M. Peterson with the School Library Journal: “[Neverwhere] did go through a review process and it was found to be educationally suitable, balanced, and age-appropriate for high school students.”
The book has been on district required reading lists since 2004, but it had not been challenged until parent Nancy Wilmott recently complained over content she deemed inappropriate for her 15-year-old daughter. Wilmott took exception to language and what she called “sexual innuendo” in the book, claiming that “This is rated R material, and she cannot get into a rated R movie.” The book was removed from classrooms during the review period, but it remained available in the library, a move that was openly supported by AHS principal Darian Jaramillo.
Wilmott cited one passage in her complaint, which appears on p. 86 of the paperback edition of the book and reads as follows:
A late-night couple, who had been slowly walking along the Embankment toward them, holding hands, sat down in the middle of the bench, between Richard and Anaesthesia, and commenced to kiss each other, passionately. “Excuse me,” said Richard to them. The man had his hand inside the woman’s sweater and was moving it around enthusiastically, a lone traveler discovering an unexplored continent. “I want my life back,” Richard told the couple.
“I love you,” said the man to the woman.
“But your wife–” she said, licking the side of his face.
“Fuck her,” said the man.
“Don’ wanna fuck her,” said the woman, and she giggled, drunkenly. “Wanna fuck you….” She put a hand on his crotch and giggled some more.
Gaiman spoke exclusively with CBLDF about the content that led to the ban:
I’m obviously disappointed that the parent in question didn’t talk to the teacher or accept the teacher’s offer of an alternative book for her daughter, and has instead worked to stop anyone else’s children reading a book that’s been in the school system successfully for almost a decade. On the other hand I’m impressed that this parent has managed to find sex and violence in Neverwhere that everyone else had somehow missed — including the entire city of Chicago, when they made Neverwhere the book that was read by adults and children alike all through the city in Spring 2011?s ONE BOOK ONE CHICAGO program.
But mostly I feel sorry for anyone excited enough by the banning to go to Neverwhere in search of “R-Rated” action. It’s a fine adventure, I think, with some sensible social points, and perhaps some good jokes and characters — but it’s very gentle stuff.
The review committee rightly decided that it was inappropriate to remove the book from the schools curriculum based on the complaint of one parent. AHS librarian Vicki Bertolino sums up the review committee’s decision:
“It was only that one small little part and they took it out of context. Parents have the right to their opinion but the mother had a choice. Everybody has a choice to read and see what they want. There’s a lot of stuff in this library that I can’t stand but I’m not going to ban it because I don’t like it.”
This is the latest victory in CBLDF’s ongoing fight against censorship. But we can’t keep up the fight without you!
Previously on CBLDF.org: