Reviews | Book bans, left and right

For the editor:

Regarding “Let’s stop discussing bans and start discussing booksby Sungjoo Yoon (Opinion guest essay, April 21):

I want to applaud Mr. Yoon’s thoughtful essay, which I’ve shared with many other black parents to point out that the negative impact of book bans goes both ways. We should not ban books because of our personal, instinctive reactions to words or speech styles or situations that embarrass us or make us feel bad, regardless of the actual content and messages of those books, no more that Toni Morrison should be banned. because she makes white parents “feel bad.”

I was never bothered by “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or “To Kill a Mockingbird”, as a young student or otherwise. Both books have opened countless minds for the better, like that of the student who wrote this piece. I learned from excellent teachers and my black parents that words were not the enemy of my self-esteem, especially when contained in books that did the opposite of spreading messages of hate and division.

Many black parents like me will vocally support and defend the efforts of this thoughtful student.

Ginger McKnight Chavers
Bronxville, NY

For the editor:

I commend Sungjoo Yoon for his nuanced acknowledgment that “he is some value in restricting the curriculum to children when these decisions are informed by a knowledge of the books and the abilities of the students. He writes that he was deeply disturbed by reading “The Rape of Nanking” at too young an age, then credits the deletion of classics like “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” from his own district’s program and elsewhere to “hyperpartisanship”.

This minimizes the painful experiences of students and their families, as well as the judgment of many educators themselves, whose concerns about the teaching of these books indeed rest on a rigorous examination of their content.

Andrew Newman
The author is chair of the English department at Stony Brook University.

For the editor:

I applaud Sungjoo Yoon’s thoughtful remarks on discussing the merits of books and expanding must-read lists. I would like to point out that there is a difference between banning books and removing books from the required reading list.

Making books non-compulsory seems like an opening, not a closing. It’s high time “To Kill a Mockingbird” was no longer required reading. It’s a white savior relic to be applauded, perhaps, as brave in its time, but it must be replaced on the mandatory list.

I am not advocating the banning of this book. Educators who carefully review reading requirements and update the curriculum practice responsible and responsive education. Sungjoo Yoon’s suggestion to discuss the merits of the books should be placed in this context.

Kerry Reynolds
The author is a retired English teacher.

For the editor:

Thanks to Sungjoo Yoon for reminding his elders of the value of great literature. These stupid parents, projecting their fears and aversions onto their children, forget that they are providing them with reading lists. Some bookstores even create displays of banned books.

I wish it was this easy for me to get “The Catcher in the Rye” when I was 10.

Jennifer Choate
Santa Cruz, California.

For the editor:

Sungjoo Yoon’s clever and well-crafted essay gives me hope that today’s youth will solve the many problems left to them by my (boomer) generation and my parents’ generation.

However, to make possible Mr. Yoon’s desire that adults abandon hyperpartisanship in favor of “rigorous conversations about the content and value of the books themselves”, then adults will actually have to read these books and engage in the type of critical thinking taught. at his school.

Bobby Hickey
Portland, Oregon.

For the editor:

I was impressed by this high school student’s deep understanding of conflicting ideas about what constitutes “appropriate reading” for students in classrooms today. I spent much of my career as a public school teacher introducing kids and teens to the same books he mentioned.

Great fiction, from illustrated children’s books to novels for young adults, lays bare our emotions and draws on our desire to empathize with the lives of characters who fight injustice, form bonds of love against the odds and suffer from the wounds that we ourselves may have suffered. In other words, the best authors will sometimes cause students unease, even emotional heartbreak, as well as joy and surprise.

Removing books from required reading lists will only deprive students of this rich emotional experience.

For the editor:

The heirs to the Nazi fortunesby David de Jong (guest essay in Opinion, Sunday Review, April 24), evoked painful memories.

Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen are the economic force of Germany. The same German industrial ingenuity also created the efficient death machines that drove the Holocaust. Unfortunately, these companies spend millions on branding and less money discussing their roots, as your article points out.

I avoided buying German cars because these companies trace their success directly to the Nazis. I visited Germany seven years ago and was touched by the commemorative plaques in the streets with the names and birth and death dates of Nazi victims. They are spread across remote towns and villages, showing how boundless the Nazis’ hatred of Jews was.

Billionaire families celebrate business success, but it still matters that they acknowledge the crimes against humanity of their ancestors. Six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust demand it.

Steven A. Ludsin
East Hampton, New York
The writer was a member of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and of the first US Holocaust Memorial Council.

For the editor:

David de Jong’s article on the patriarchs of the German automotive industry was revealing and disturbing. The families of these men have apparently swept their Nazi history far and wide under the rug and are hoping that with all the years that have passed, the stench of Nazi atrocities in their industry will go away.

Unfortunately, they may be right.

Gail Davis
Santa Cruz, California.

For the editor:

Where in California do women under 30 earn more than men?(California Today newsletter,, April 15) rightly celebrates the closing of the gender wage gap for women under 30 in major California cities. The article attributes several factors, including the increasing rate of college graduation among women. But the most important factor driving the gender pay gap, which also explains age and geographic differences, has been overlooked: motherhood.

Bias against mothers is the strongest form of gender bias against women, and motherhood is a far more important predictor of wage inequality than sex alone. Why are young women graduating from universities in large coastal cities paid the same as men? Because they usually have no children. Compared to their identical childless peers, mothers are less likely to be hired, offered lower starting salaries and less likelihood of promotion.

Surprisingly, it is not already illegal in California to discriminate against mothers. A bill presented to the California State Assembly by Buffy Wicks – AB 2182 – would change that. As Mother’s Day approaches, let us mothers ask for more than flowers and chocolates.

Liz Morris
San Francisco
The author is associate director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings Law.

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