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I See What They Did There

School Bans Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut Memorial Library Offers Students Free Copies

Ooh, fun, book-banning! Once again, Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five has been banned from Republic High School in Missouri. This is far from the first time the book has been banned, or burned; schools in the U.S. have frequently struck the book from the curriculum, and removed it from the libraries, and it solidly holds its place on the American Library Association’s list of “100 Most Challenged Books of 1990-1999.” When the Vonnegut memorial library heard about this particular one, however, they reached out to the students who would be deprived of reading the book, and are providing those students with free copies of the novel.

Mark this under “Rebellion that rocks.”

To the 150 students who were originally supposed to read the book, Vonnegut Library is offering them the opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights, saying that all the students have to do is email them with their name, address, and grade level, and they will receive a copy of the book. This was their message:

We have up to 150 books to share, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. We think it’s important for everyone to have their First Amendment rights. We’re not telling you to like the book… we just want you to read it and decide for yourself. We will not share your request or any of your personal information with anyone else.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a satirical novel that tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, World War II experiences, and his travels through time. It is generally reguarded as Vonnegut’s most popular and influential work. The School Board has publicly stated their reason for banning the book, saying that it creates “false conceptions of American history and government or that teach principles contrary to Biblical morality and truth.”

This is a book that contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame. The “f word” is plastered on almost every other page. The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ.

Is it worth mentioning that it also dissipates the “false conception of American history” that we didn’t bomb civilian targets in World War II, though an essentially autobiographical retelling of Vonnegut’s survival of the bombing of Dresden while a prisoner of war? Or that it was one of the the first literary sources to acknowledge that gays and lesbians were shipped off to Nazi camps as well as other German scapegoats? Hmmm.

(via io9)

(Photo via Guardian)



  • Jocelyn Dugan

    I didn’t realize high schoolers read anymore. Huh. It’s too bad we can’t guarantee anymore that banning a book will make sure it’s read by all who are banned.

    I <3 Banned Books.

  • JJ Coffey

    I wish the students in my classroom showed the slightest interest in reading – even banned books hold little interest to them.

    Then again, I may have to be sneaky and introduce them slowly to the great works of the written world. Vonnegut is always a great place to start.

  • John Wao

    I donated $10 bucks to Vonnegut Library and now I have to read the book.  After all there’s sex in it.

  • Anonymous

    “The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex”

    They conveniently left out that those “others” are space aliens who merely wish to observe humans as we do animals in a zoo.

    “…to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ.”

    Of course, any Biblical scholar would tell you that “Nazarene” had all sorts of negative, regionalist connotations (the way, for example, Americans might speak of West Virginia), and that Jesus being thought of as a loser and a bum is in fact that the very core of the Christ story.

    But that would require the ability to read closely and with appreciation for nuance, and anyone who wants to ban Slaughterhouse-Five can’t possibly possess such qualities.

  • Wesley Smith

    If this had been a county library or a function of some government body other than the school board, I’d be right there with you. But nobody here is preventing access to the book, they’re just taking it off the curriculum, which schools do every year when they update it. The school board’s motivations may not have been the purest, but to call this a book-banning is stretching it a little. This is more like blasting B&N because they stopped ordering copies of a book so they could make room for new stock.

  • Jeanne Van Gilder

    I thought we were over banning books?

    Okay, so it’s a little profane and probably should only be read by juniors and seniors.  I read it as a senior in loved it.  

  • Anonymous

    i went on vacation last week, and i reread this book to pass the time in the car.  “fuck” does not appear on every other page, i promise.  way to go Vonnegut Memorial Library.  your namesake would be proud.

  • Nikki Lincoln

    I read the second yellow box and added the book to my Kindle wishlist. I also bookmarked the banned books site so I have lots of things to read now!

  • Nuchtchas

    As I’m thinking more and more about this I’m
    thinking that the Library should also give every one of those students
    a copy of “Man without a Country” so they can understand the hilarity
    of this whole situation.

    Also I’m mailing in a donation since I don’t use paypal.

  • Kristin Frederickson

    Kurt Vonnegut changed my life when I was in high school, it saddens me that kids would be barred from it just because uptight parents and teachers are afraid of kids reading about a few assholes and f-words. What do they think kids talk about anyway?

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  • Frodo Baggins

    So it’s a battle between teen rebellion and teen laziness, eh? That’s quite a toss-up.

  • Frodo Baggins

    So it goes.