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Wednesday 13 October 2004

John Kessel Story Banned

John Kessel's novella "Stories for Men", winner of the James Tiptree Jr. Award and finalist for the Nebula and Sturgeon awards, has been removed from the curriculum of a high school English class in Seaside, Oregon, following a parent complaint.

An article by Stephanie Scordia from the Seaside Signal is excerpted here:

Seaside High School English teacher Jan Priddy has taught her science-fiction course as an elective for several years. In the class, Priddy gives her students a choice between the short story "Stories for Men" by John Kessel, or a short story by Mark Twain. Because each student was able to choose which work they wished to read, the arrangement worked out well for everyone.

This year, however, one of her students upset by the content of "Stories for Men," shared the story with her mother, Kathy Wilson, who was similarly upset over the sexual content of the short story. Wilson contacted Seaside High School Principal Don Wickersham to discuss her concerns over the short story’s content. Initially, Wickersham was not familiar the work, but, after reading the passages in question, found them to be "inappropriate." Wickersham next met with Priddy who "saw where it could be deemed inappropriate and chose to remove it from her class," Wickersham said.

As a result, "Stories for Men" is no longer available for any student to read in Priddy’s class, Wickersham said. Priddy refused to comment, but in an earlier statement to the press said that she was aware that some people might find portions of "Stories for Men" objectionable but that it is necessary to read the entire work to understand its meaning.

Upon hearing of the situation here in Seaside, the work’s author, John Kessel, has offered to talk with parents, teachers and administrators, "should they wish to understand what I think this story is about and how I hope that it would cause young people to think about their attitudes toward men and women in society." "It is unfortunate when students are prevented from reading and discussing work in the classroom," Kessel continued. "The English classroom is one of the last places in our society where young people who are going to be the citizens of the future are challenged to think, to develop their values, to test their understanding of people and society against what thoughtful people have written in times before them and in our own."


Kessel believes that most good literature is meant to be provocative. "A good story-especially a good science fiction story-should make you question and think about things that you might otherwise take for granted.

"It has never been my intent to offend readers for the sake of offending readers," he continued, "it is unfortunate when students are prevented from reading and discussing work in the classroom."

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