Harrison County

Now that ‘Mockingbird’ is ‘forbidden fruit,’ people will take a bite, librarian says

Banned books that shaped American literature

A Mississippi school district removed "To Kill a Mockingbird" from the 8th grade curriculum. The novel is included on the Library of Congress "Books that Shaped America" list along with other controversial titles.
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A Mississippi school district removed "To Kill a Mockingbird" from the 8th grade curriculum. The novel is included on the Library of Congress "Books that Shaped America" list along with other controversial titles.

A retired librarian from Texas offered the Sun Herald her observations from experience in the wake of Biloxi School District’s pulling “To Kill A Mockingbird” from required reading for eighth graders.

“I can tell you with absolute certainty what’s going to happen,” said Kate Dungan French, retired for 41 years and keeping up with the story. “The bookstores, public libraries and Amazon, will be flooded with people wanting to read that book.

“The school board has dangled sweet forbidden fruit in book form and the kids will eat it up. Kudos to the Biloxi School Board for pulling ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from their shelves and making it a must-read.”

We’ll see.

The story spread around the country quickly. All the major news outlets carried it.

And yesterday, the Biloxi Library made a comment about the school’s decision on its Facebook page.

“Access to literature and information is the most basic tenet of public libraries,” it stated. “It’s why we exist. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ will always have a home in Biloxi Libraries. We’re purchasing additional copies, as well as supporting and related materials and will have them on the shelves soon.”

According to the American Library Association, “Mockingbird” was the No. 21 most banned and challenged book in the United States in the first decade of the 21st century.

In the meantime, popular author Riley Sager, of Princenton, New Jersey, wondered what he could do to help after reading about the Biloxi School District’s decision.

He wanted to make sure Biloxi kids who wanted to read it had a copy and partnered with Shereen Kostmayer’s Southern Bound Book Shop, the city’s only independent book shop.

Together they purchased 100 copies, which are on the way. Kostmayer said they will be handed out free to children with a Biloxi School District ID, beginning Monday.

The store is at 1015 Howard Avenue, Suite A.

“‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is one of the undisputed classics of American literature, offering lessons and values as relevant today as they were when it was first published in 1960,” Sager said. “I would hate for a young person in the community to miss out on reading the book because the Biloxi School District decided to pull it.”

French said, “The really shameful thing is that ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is probably the most important book of the 20th century, and it’s more important today than when it came out.

“It’s just an extraordinary book in so many ways. Everyone should read it at least once.”

Set in the 1930s South, “Mockingbird” tackles the issue of racial injustice as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old. Biloxi pulled it from the lesson plan for eighth grade when parents complained that a racially charged word in the dialogue of the book made them uncomfortable.

Sun Herald reporter Karen Nelson questions Biloxi School District Superintendent Arthur McMillan about the decision to pull "To Kill a Mockingbird."

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