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Tom Shillue

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Banned Seattle author defends ‘Art of Racing in the Rain’

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Seattle author Garth Stein has a new distinction to add to his resume: his best selling book “The Art of Racing in the Rain” has been banned by a Texas high school.

Stein’s acclaimed novel tells the story of an aspiring Seattle race car driver and mechanic struggling with the death of his wife through the eyes of his dog Enzo, who’s convinced he’ll be reincarnated as a human.

“It’s about perseverance, it’s about self reliance and it’s really about how to lead a good life,” Stein tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz.

But some parents at Dallas’ Highland Park High School objected to some sexual themes and subject matter. In one section, the driver is falsely accused of sexual molestation by an underage girl who tries to force herself on him.

After a heated school board meeting, the school board ordered the 10th grade English class to stop reading the book, along with six other books considered objectionable, The Dallas Morning News reports.

Stein defends the book, and teaching it to 10th graders, saying even the controversial subject matter was “taken quite seriously and with gravitas.”

“Things do happen in this world that are inappropriate and people get themselves into situations where mistakes are made and things are compromised,” he says.

“I think in 10th grade, it’s time to be able to have these discussions about adult subject matter and I think it’s important to do so in a responsible and thoughtful way.”

Stein says he respects the rights of parents to raise concerns about potentially objectionable content. But he’s concerned the parents in Texas didn’t actually read the whole book.

“I think that somebody pulled out a passage and said look at this and then they passed it around and a bunch of people signed their names to it,” he says.

Stein says he believes in the value of a teacher guiding discussions of challenging or controversial subject matter, but says parents should be involved as well.

“I think the objective is to raise the awareness by having a discussion about these things rather than by suppressing the discussion.”

Stein’s book will be reviewed by a committee of parents, teachers and students. The superintendent of schools there says the process could take several months.

Stein questions the way the situation was handled, although he believes both the parents and teachers involved have the best interests of students in mind.

“They should be teaching their students to raise those objections themselves,” he says of potential concerns. “Maybe what’s going on now will lead to schools evaluating how they choose their curriculum, how the community participates in the choosing of that curriculum.”

He’s hopeful that doesn’t include banning books.

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