As noted in a previous blog, Jessica Powers, author of the young adult novel The Confessional (Random House, July 2007) had been disinvited to speak at Cathedral High School in El Paso because her book contained “language” and sexual innuendos. The principal of the private, Catholic school spoke with an El Paso reporter for Newspaper Tree saying he felt “compelled to protect our kids [who begin attending at 13 years old] and our school.” Has this guy walked down his own hallways lately? Where does he think Jessica got the realistic teen behavior material for her book? Not only that, but didn’t these people actually READ her book before inviting her to speak?
Even so, it hardly seems the point, since Powers says she wasn’t going to speak about her book, but rather on the issues she writes about in the book: “immigration (illegal and legal); underlying racial tension in a border society like El Paso’s; violence and pacifism; social divisions between different groups of people; and faith or doubts about faith.” But, as Cathedral is a private rather than public school, its decision was regarded differently by Bobby Byrd, co-publisher and vice president of Cinco Puntos Press, who “said the decision for a private school to cancel a book event is a ‘whole different situation’ from public censorship. ‘The parents are essentially hiring the school to make certain decisions,’ he said. ‘If a teacher were teaching that book, then it would be a whole different decision.’ The decision to cancel the discussion may not have been the correct one, though, Byrd suggested. ‘To me it speaks of timidity,’ he added. ‘Literature is literature.'”
It was Jessica’s contention that her visit had been cancelled because of a coinciding visit to take place by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. The cancellation itself was brought on, not by school members, but by Former Chief Justice Barajas – who I also doubt even read the book. Ironically enough, on August 12, Jessica made note in her blog that the superintendent of the schools actually gave her approval of the book: “Because of all the brouhaha, a teacher made sure the superintendent of Catholic schools in El Paso had a copy of the book. She read it and called the principal up and said she didn’t see what all the fuss was about. She said, ‘I don’t want our boys to talk this way…but they do.’ Former Chief Justice Barajas, the one who forced the cancellation of the event, had allegedly said this was an attack on the church and a threat. But a teacher who read it said, ‘Every time the boys get in trouble, they return to what they were taught. They pray, they go to confession….What else can you ask for?'”
Only what’s left to ask: WWJD?