LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California together with the law firm of Greines Martin, Stein & Richland and the American Library Association have asked the Norwalk-La Mirada School District and La Mirada High School to return the novel Sophie's Choice to the school's library collection after the book was pulled by La Mirada High School's principal. The book was apparently removed from the school's library after a parent complained about certain isolated portions of the novel.
Sophie's Choice by William Styron is a widely acclaimed novel dealing with the grueling experiences of a Holocaust survivor. It has received the National Book Award and was also made into an Oscar-winning film in which actress Meryl Streep delivers what is widely regarded as one of her best performances.
"The fact that the school would choose to pull this book is extremely alarming," said Peter Eliasberg, Managing Attorney at the ACLU/SC. "This is an excellent novel by one of the country's finest authors. It is a novel dealing with one woman's struggle to come to terms with the consequences of the Holocaust. A school library should be a place where students can expand their minds and choose among all sorts of books, especially great books like Sophie's Choice."
The ACLU/SC is also troubled by the way the decision to pull the acclaimed novel was made. The school district has a policy in place that calls for a systematic review of challenged materials. In this case, La Mirada High School's principal simply decided that the book would be removed from the library without review of the material in question.
"Courts have time and again held that school boards cannot remove books from their libraries simply because they don't like the ideas contained in those books," said Judith F. Krug, Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. "The First Amendment guarantees the free flow of ideas and just because one parent may be uncomfortable with certain aspects of a particular work does not mean they have the right to impose their beliefs on other people's children. Parents know their children best and should guide their own children's reading."
The ACLU/SC, Greines Martin, Stein & Richland have asked the high school and the school board to return Sophie's Choice to the school's library promptly.
"The First Amendment exists for a reason," stated Jens Koepke of Greines Martin, Stein & Richland, "one person should not be allowed to determine everyone else's literary tastes. Children's education should not be restricted because one individual decided he or she did not like a particular novel."