A high school in Idaho is considering removing a book by an award-winning Indian-American author from the reading list because of sexual content. The Coeur d’Alene School District’s ad-hoc literature committee voted 4-2, to recommend excluding “The Namesake,” a 2004 book by renowned author Jhumpa Lahiri that tells the story of an immigrant couple from India adjusting to a new life in America.
Last year, the same committee made an unsuccessful attempt to remove John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” from the reading list of optional books that English teachers could assign to 9th Graders. That attempt by the 5-year old volunteer committee which reviews 5 titles per month, made headlines, the local news outlet cdapress.com reported Nov. 5.
Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri is one of President Obama’s favorite authors and is on the White House Committee on Arts and Humanities and was awarded the National Medal of Arts and Humanities at a White House ceremony this September.
After the committee recently submitted its recommendation to the board of trustees, a 30-day review period is underway during which members of the community can make comments on the decision. Board Chair Christa Hazel told The Press, local input was important. “Without that it’s more individual governance,” Hazel said. “We need to have local representation and it’s hard to represent when we don’t hear from the people we are representing.”
According to local school authorities, teachers have a strong voice in the selection process, and in case Lahiri’s title is challenged, the principal will appoint a committee of two parents and two teachers to review the material. The board has the final say in approving her book.