Family Challenges Two Books over N-Word

Family Challenges Two Books over N-Word

The parents of an 11-year-old student at the Hillsborough County (Fla.) School District’s Turner Elementary School in New Tampa announced in mid-March that they would seek the removal of two media-center novels that contain the n-word: The Land by Mildred Taylor and The Starplace by Vicki Grove. “I want them pulled,” Darryl Brown, a doctoral student in education at the University of South Florida, said in the March 17 St. Petersburg Times. “There needs to be an examination of these words that elementary school kids are reading.”

Brown and his wife Alytrice told the Times that they originally expressed their concern to the assistant principal in January after their daughter Ashyaa told them she had found the offensive word in The Starplace, a story about an interracial middle-school friendship in 1960s Oklahoma. However, the family was not advised how to file a challenge until two months later, Mr. Brown explained, telling how he called again in March because another student who was reading The Land directed the epithet against Ashyaa.

On the second occasion, Turner Media Specialist Donna Simonetti-Tedesco phoned him to explain how to challenge materials, but used the n-word in talking about the books. She apologized, but “it was a lackluster apology,” Brown told the newspaper, describing the librarian’s word choice as “like pouring salt on a wound.” Brown added that he subsequently wrote the principal asking that Simonetti-Tedesco be suspended.

Mildred Taylor, who is African American, has written in an afterward to The Land, which is a story about a former slave during Reconstruction, that she deliberately used the language “that was spoken during the period, for I refuse to whitewash history.” In a March 18 interview on 24-hour Florida cable TV station Bay News 9, Mr. Brown disagreed, calling such an explanation “a moot point [and] a politically savvy way of trying to cover something up.”

Posted on April 11, 2008. Discuss.