Monday, April 27, 2009

Girl Interupted is BOWDLERIZED, 2008

Man, this one introduced a term I'd never heard of before -- bowdlerizing -- but what a dangerous practice.

According to New Rochelle's Talk of the Sound, in 2008, the New Rochelle Board of Education decided certain passages in the novel GIRL INTERUPTED were inappropriate for high school students. So they did something worse than banning the book. They tore out or blacked out the bits they considered "bad." The quote:

"The material was of a sexual nature that we deemed inappropriate for teachers to present to their students," said English Department Chairperson Leslie Altschul, "since the book has other redeeming features, we took the liberty of bowdlerizing."

What is "bowdlerizing?" My hero Joan Bertin explained in the same article:

"Bowdlerizing is a particularly disturbing form of censorship since it not only suppresses specific content deemed 'objectionable,' but also does violence to the work by removing material that the author thought integral," said Joan Bertin, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. "It is a kind of literary fraud perpetrated on an unsuspecting audience."

Fortunately, the board reportedly backed down and promised to replace the damaged 50 copies of the book, though I have not found confirmation that the books were actually replaced. More information when I find it.

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