Like many great works of literature, Aldous Huxley's classic novel Brave New World has, at various times, been banned, challenged as a fraud, or otherwise pissed upon by the nitpicking masses. In this particular book's case, banning it is more than a little ironic, seeing as the book itself presents a society where almost no one reads books anymore. Regardless, the latest effort at prohibiting Huxley's opus comes from right here in Seattle at Nathan Hale High School.
As KUOW reports today, it seems a Native American student who was required to read the book took issue with the its depiction of native people. The girl's mom, Sarah Sense-Wilson, agreed and wrote the school to have it removed from the curriculum, writing: "(The book has a) high volume of racially offensive derogatory language and misinformation on Native Americans. In addition to the inaccurate imagery, and stereotype views, the text lacks literary value which is relevant to today's contemporary multicultural society."
The school eventually agreed, promising to remove the book from students' required reading list and releasing a statement apologizing that the "cultural insensitivity embedded in this book makes it an inappropriate choice as a central text in our 10th grade curriculum."
In the book, Huxley tosses around the word "savage" frequently. His portrait of a mainstream society where babies are not born, but created in factories and bred into specific roles, is offset by a frontier-like outlying culture in which babies are still "born naturally." It's this culture which is owned by the "savages."
What Sense-Wilson and her daughter seem to be having trouble grasping is that the "savages" in the book are only called "savages" because the mainstream society which they aren't a part of is so perverted. In reality, Huxley's savages are indeed the heroes and the normal ones, while the drugged-out, apathetic test-tube people that populate the fictional mainstream culture are the oddballs.
Regardless, the parent and daughter seem content to cherry-pick various excerpts from the book as proof of its offensive nature, like: "'Remember that in the Reservation, children are born. Yes, actually born, revolting as that may seem. Those, I repeat, who are born on the Reservation are destined to die there.'"
Not only is Sense-Wilson offended by the language, she appears to think Brave New World is not at all well-written, either. She tells KUOW that it should be taken out of all Seattle schools and banished to the public library, but that even there, no one will want to read it. "Most of the kids I've talked to don't even like the book so I doubt it would even get an audience in the library."
Tell that the Modern Library who rated the book as No. 18 in its list of the "100 Best Novels" of all time, or to the tens of millions of readers who have thumbed through it since it was published in 1932.
-reported by curtis cartier for the seattle weekly blog 11/17/10