‘The Art of Racing in the Rain” is one of the seven books flagged for review afterHighland Park ISD parents objected to the book’s content, which some viewed as explicit. Author Garth Stein argues the book contains life messages for young teenagers, adding that the book came under fire because of a scene involving molestation.
The Texas Standard’s David Brown recently spoke with Stein about the temporary ban.
Here are some of the interview highlights.
Stein on the controversial scene in the book:
“There’s definitely a scene that’s part of the plot of the book that involves an allegation of sexual molestation. Its handled, I think, rather delicately. It was necessary to drive the plot. I believe that’s the offending moment.”
Stein on the book being challenged previously:
“A long time ago I was getting some emails. . . specifically in middle schools, and librarians were saying, ‘We can’t have words that use the so-called F-bomb in them..too bad because this book has so many great messages for young people, we’d love to share it with them but community standards won’t allow that.’ So I worked with my publisher, and we put out a Young Reader Edition for kids between 8 and 12-years-old that sort of cleaned up language, and it also changes the sexual molestation question…it’s finessed in a different direction…that was sort of a way of trying to appeal to a broader audience understanding that different communities have different standards.”
Stein on how the situation should be handled:
“I really believe that the way difficult situations should be handled is by discussion and by conversion, not by censorship…having that open discussion is really what young people are going to benefit from, not trying to make it taboo.”
Stein on dialogue with the school district:
“There has to be a dialogue in the equation. There is a reason why teachers choose a certain curriculum, it’s because they have a belief in what they can add to the discussion with the students is going to benefit the students in particular, but the community at large. It all needs to be a discussion, and not just a ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a bad word, let’s throw this book out.'”
Stein on the current situation:
“What’s going on in Highland Park is they’ve suspended my book as well as the other books, pending further review. Honesty, I’d be happy to get involved in a discussion with the school board in this review if they want to understand the context of the scene that they find offensive, and why I put it in, and why it couldn’t be any other way, why it’s inevitable, and I’m in no way taking this decision-making out of the hands of the parents.”