Members of an Alaska school board have voted to remove several classic novels from the school’s curriculum, asserting that the books contain too much sexual content and graphic language.

The move came on a 5-2 vote by members of the Mata­nuska-Susitna School Board. In the wake of the vote, the books will no longer be used in high school English classes.

The targeted books are Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

Jeff Taylor, one of the members who voted to remove the books, asserted that the novels are full of “things that are pretty serious problems, especially in our teenage world.”

He added, “Is there a reason that we include books that we even label as controversial in our curriculum? I would prefer these were gone.”

Jim Hart, who also voted for removal, said he acted after reading summaries of Invisible Man and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, both of which are by black authors.

After public outcry, the board said it would reconsider the vote. The board listened to hours of public testimony during a May 6 meeting, and nearly all of the speakers called for rescinding the decision. But the board did not act, and instead announced it would discuss the matter again at a later meeting.

The district has 19,000 students and is the second largest in Alaska.


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