December 19, 2014

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Adult book themes worry North Ridgeville parent

god of small thingsNORTH RIDGEVILLE — Maria Sycz is not one for banning books.

“That’s not me at all,” Sycz, a longtime former school board member, said about comments she made at Tuesday’s school board meeting over concerns she had with a book assigned as part of her daughter’s 10th-grade honors English class summer reading list.

Sycz told board members and administrative officials she was concerned over what she felt were adult themes and subject matter in “The God of Small Things,” an award-winning novel written by Arundhati Roy, an Indian author who writes about life in a small rural town in India.

According to a description of the book at www.amazon.com, the novel deals with “the story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer the terrible consequences of forbidden love.”

Sycz, who served as president for seven of her nine years with the school board before losing a re-election bid last fall, said she was bothered by the book’s inclusion of themes dealing with subjects such as rape, beatings, incest, the molestation of a young child, adultery and physical abuse in marriage.

“My daughter read it and I read it,” Sycz said. “It was a very depressing book. I think there are a lot more books out there that are more uplifting.”

She described the book’s descriptions of and language dealing with those topics as somewhat detailed, but stopped short of calling them explicit.

Its adult themes aside, Sycz said she felt the book was not especially well-written. “Parts of it were even hard for me to follow,” she said.

Sycz is concerned that the book — winner of the 1997 Man Booker Prize for original fiction written in English and published in Great Britain — is read by 15- and 16-year-olds, ages at which teens typically develop a heightened sexual curiosity.

“I don’t want kids to think these are normal relationships,” Sycz said. “I just don’t feel this is an age-appropriate choice.”

No one responded to her comments at the meeting, Sycz said.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” she said. “I just wanted them to be aware when they’re doing the summer reading list for next year to make age-appropriate choices.

“I would never want any kind of censorship,” Sycz said.

Superintendent James Powell could not be reached for comment.

Sycz said she was aware of some parents sharing their concerns about the book via Facebook.

“We should be more aware of what books are being assigned to students to read, and what topics are covered in those books,” Sycz said. “There are a lot more and better books out there that would serve the same purpose” of exploring diversity and adult topics, she said, such as “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom.

Sycz suggested having a disclaimer of sorts to alert parents to the content of certain books before students read them, and to provide alternative books if parents object to a particular book.

“I feel this book crossed the line,” Sycz said. “But if a kid wants to read it, by all means let them.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.