Parents Action League wants 'Eleanor & Park' removed from Anoka-Hennepin libraries
The Parents Action League -- classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Center last year, largely due to the group's onetime support for ex-gay-therapy -- is back in the news for filing a formal complaint calling on the Anoka-Hennepin School District to remove Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park from library shelves.
Rowell was actually scheduled to visit the Anoka County Library days ago, but her visit was canceled due to the controversy. The Nebraska native even offered to travel to Anoka County and appear without getting paid, but district and county officials never got back to her, according to an Omaha World Herald report.
Here's a brief and out-of-context excerpt from the book (meant to give you a flavor for the controversial language Rowell uses), which is ultimately about two teens who have difficulty finding a social niche in school but end up developing a romance through their shared musical interests:
"There," Steve said. He looked for something to throw at Mikey, but couldn't find anything. He pointed instead. "I fucking told you."
"What the fuck does Sheridan know about kung fu?" Mikey said.
"Are you retarded?" Steve said. "His mom's Chinese."
Mikey looked at Park carefully. Park smiled and narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, I guess I see it," Mikey said. "I always thought you were Mexican."
"Shit, Mikey," Steve said, "you're such a fucking racist."
"She's not Chinese," Tina said. "She's Korean."
"Who is?" Steve asked.
Park's mom had been cutting Tina's hair since grade school. They both had the exact same hairstyle: long spiral perms with tall feathered bangs.
"She's fucking hot is what she is," Steve said, cracking himself up. "No offense, Park."
Park managed another smile and slunk back into his seat, putting his headphones back on and cranking up the volume.
In a report about the book published on the Parents Action League's website, the parents of a 15-year-old student write, "Never in our 43 years have either of us read anything more profane."
According to the aforementioned World Herald report, the parents counted 227 offending words, including 67 "Gods", 24 "Jesuses," and four "Christs."
More from MPR:
Librarians had included the book on school library shelves, and it was selected for use in the summer "Rock the Book" program.
Parents of a student objected to the book's content, citing its use of profanity and its treatment of sexuality. The Anoka County Library had scheduled a visit by Rowell, but the event was canceled due to the controversy. Chair Tom Heidemann of the school board said officials were considering two issues: whether the book should have been included in the library, and whether it was appropriate for the reading program.
Anoka-Hennepin school board chair Tom Heidemann told MPR the school board "has passed no judgment relative to whether or not that should or should not be in the library," adding that parent complaints about the presence of the book at school libraries will be evaluated via "a process that will involve the community and public hearings as we go forward."
A statement published on the Parents Action League website says, "Because of the apparent lack of moral awareness shown by the district staff at all levels we feel that it has become necessary to engage the parents and residents of the district to push the necessary changes from the top down and accelerate the removal of this profane and inappropriate material more quickly than the district's formal process will allow."
Rowell told the World Herald she wishes her critics would pay more attention to the book's message and less to the colorful language she sometimes uses.
"When these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they're saying that rising above your situation isn't possible," she said. "That if you grow up in an ugly situation, your story isn't even fit for good people's ears. That ugly things cancel out everything beautiful."
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.