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ASU Departments Host ‘Teach-in,’ Discussion on ‘The House of the Spirits’ Novel, Controversy at WHS

By Jesse Wood

Nov. 22, 2013. Appalachian State University hosts a “teach-in” and discussion of “The House of the Spirits,” a novel by Isabel Allende that is the subject of a book challenge by a parent of a Watauga High School student. The event will include an open discussion for community members to speak, as well.

“The purpose of the teach-in is to explore the literary value of Allende’s novel and the vital importance of book freedom,” a press release notes.

house of spiritsThe event is to take place on Tuesday, Dec 3, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 114 of the Belk Library on the campus of ASU. Sponsored by the departments of English and Languages, Literatures and Cultures and organized by Associate Professor of English Craig Fischer, N.C. Poet Laureate and Professor of English Joseph Bathanti will host the “teach-in.”

“I’m disturbed that Allende’s book might be censored out of Watauga High’s sophomore Honors curriculum, especially since my son read House in that class last year and learned a lot from it,” said Fischer, who is also the parent of a WHS student. “It’s an important novel. I understand that individual students and parents might prefer to avoid House—and teacher Mary Kent Whitaker offers an alternative book to those students and parents—but it’s unfair for a vocal minority of dissenters to impose their morality on the entire high school curriculum. Censorship is never the answer. Those of us participating in this teach-in are taking a stand in support of Allende, “House,” and book freedom.” 

The teach-in will also feature:

ASU faculty (including Dr. Catherine Fountain of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures) on the literary stature of Allende and House;

Watauga High students and parents on the House book challenge;

An open-mic portion of the program where community members can speak; and

Copies of House for sale, courtesy of the ASU bookstore.

For more background on this issue, see the following stories. 

Nov. 21, 2013: Allende, Author of ‘The House of the Spirits,’ Defends Book, Pens Letter to Watauga School Board, Staff

Nov. 18, 2013: GOP Commissioners Voice Objections To Watauga School Board Regarding ‘The House of Spirits’ Novel at WHS

Nov. 6, 2013: Parents Opposed To ‘The House of Spirits’ Speak During School Board Meeting: ‘Not An Issue Of Censorship’  

Nov. 1, 2013: WHS Teachers Defend “The House Of Spirits,” Concerned Parent Moves To File Appeal To Review Committee