AJN Agency.- A South Carolina school district will return to Bernard Malamud’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Fixer” about anti-Semitism, nearly a year after it was withdrawn following a parent complaint was withdrawn.
The decision Wednesday by the Beaufort County School District review committee ends another episode in which a Jewish book has been embroiled in a national book-banning campaign by Orthodox parents.
The district had last removed “The Fixer” and other books from school libraries, citing safety concerns for school employees. Malamud’s novel was on a long list of nearly 100 books that were questioned by a parent affiliated with Moms for Liberty, an activist group spearheading the ban-book movement. Booklooks.org, a ratings site often cited by the Moms for Liberty chapter, says that “The Fixer” contains “controversial religious and racial commentary”; hatred associated with racism; violence including self-harm; and blasphemy.”
According to minutes of the meeting, which a district spokesman shared with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the committee voted Wednesday to return “The Fixer” and four other books to school library circulation. The school board would have to approve the decision, but so far it has approved all of the committee’s recommendations. (One of the reviewed books was permanently withdrawn, while the other was put back in the review process.)
“I am relieved that the committee found the text appropriate and I hope the council will agree to put it back on the shelves,” Emily Meyer, a former Beaufort County Jewish teacher who is lobbying the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, told the Jewish Telegraphic Told the agency. Against the ban on books.
But he added: “I don’t think it should have been questioned in the first place, because I don’t think many students have checked out ‘The Fixer’ from the library recently.” Allowing students access to texts that present diverse perspectives on historical events helps us ensure that history does not repeat itself.
“The Fixer” is not the first Jewish book to be withdrawn from schools following a challenge from parents, nor is it the first time that a withdrawal has been overturned. Last year, a Texas school district quickly backtracked on its decision to remove an illustrated version of The Diary of Anne Frank after a public outcry, while a Missouri district recently removed Art Spiegelman, a graphic artist from “Maus,” despite the state’s concerns. Voted to keep Holocaust memoirs in schools. Doing so could put teachers in legal jeopardy.
But restoration is not always the result. The same illustrated version of Frank’s diary, “Maus”, a Holocaust novel by Jody Picoult and a children’s book about Purim featuring LGBTQ parents, have been permanently removed from other districts, in all cases by the parents. Because of parents or authorities’ concern that the content was inappropriate for children.
“The Fixer” has special historical significance in this battle, as the novel was also at the center of a 1982 Supreme Court case over the constitutionality of the ban on books in school libraries. That case ended without a clear precedent from the court.
The novel describes the case of Mendel Beilis, a Jewish activist from Kiev in 1911, who was accused of murdering a Christian boy and using his blood to make matzah, a classic example of blood libel. , an anti-Semitic allegation that Jews kill and use children. Blood for religious rituals.
Bayliss’s own family has heavily criticized Malamud for his portrayal of Mendel over the years, even claiming that the author stole his diaries. However, his grandson Jay Beilis, who has long campaigned against the book, told JTA: “I’m not going to celebrate the book being banned.”
Malamud, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Fixer” in 1967, himself commented on the book ban in the lead up to the 1982 Supreme Court case.
He said in 1976, a decade before his death, “I wish that school board members and others who want to ban books would try to understand them before they are removed from library shelves.” “If they read ‘The Fixer,’ they may urge more students to read it.”