There’s nothing like banning a book to make it seem cool.
The Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School Board, which is based in Palmer, Alaska and whose district comprises more than 19,000 students, voted to take five novels off the high school curriculum, inspiring a backlash from the community and a dedicated reading challenge.
The five books—The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou—were removed for reasons including mentions of incest, sexual references, and profanity. (If you’d like to see a detailed description of each book’s merits followed by a much briefer reason why each of them were removed, you can read the district’s notes here.)
According to a report from CNN, the books now seem to be the talk of the town, with community members creating livestreamed readings, a book club, and, my personal favorite response, the Mat-Su Valley Banned Book Challenge, which will award a $100 prize to someone who reads all five of them. If this was an elaborate case of reverse psychology, then I’m calling it a success.