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New Jersey School District Removes Two ‘Honors English’ Books Due to Sexual Content


New Jersey School District Removes Two ‘Honors English’ Books Due to Sexual Content
By Mary Walsh, SIECUS Program Research Intern
A required summer reading list at New Jersey’s Williamstown High School (Monroe Township School District1) has come under fire after parents complained about the content of two books assigned to Honors English students: Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood2 and Nic Sheff’s Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines.3
Norwegian Wood was assigned to sophomores enrolled in Honors English. Though it contains multiple suicides and a story of sexual assault, parental objections focused on a lesbian sex scene between an adult and a minor. Tweak, assigned to Honors English seniors, is an addict’s memoir that includes graphic scenes of drug use and sexual intercourse. Again, parental objections seemed to focus on scenes involving same-sex contact.
Chuck Earling, superintendent of Monroe Township Schools, defended the district’s choice of Honors reading assignments: he noted thatthe books were picked by a review committee of school librarians, teachers, and administrators, and were approved by the local board of education. Review committee members “read the books (and) didn’t feel (they were) inappropriate based on the language that’s used, common language used on the street.”4 Nonetheless, the books were removed from the reading list and parents will be included on the review committee in the future.5
1 Monroe Township School District web site: <>.
2 Jay Rubin, “Fiction Review: Norwegian Wood,”, 11 September 2000, accessed 4 October 2011, <>.
3 John A. Sellars, “Sheff Takes His Drug Recovery Public,”, 9 October 2008, accessed 4 October 2011, <>.
4 Todd Starnes, “New Jersey School District Yanks Lesbian Sex Book From Required Summer Reading List,”, 23 August 2011, accessed 4 October 2011, <>.
5 Rebecca Forand, “Risque Summer Reading Selections Have Parents Upset, School Officials Scrapping Books in Monroe Township,”, August 22, 2011, accessed October 4, 2011,