HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Henrico County School Board voted Thursday to keep a book by a prominent Black author in circulation after evaluating a parent’s complaint that it was “inappropriate” for all grade levels.
“Monster” is a 1999 novel by Walter Dean Myers, an award-winning Black author of children’s and young adult literature. The novel follows a Black teenager accused of murder in connection with a robbery gone wrong, who is eventually acquitted after struggling with how his race changes the way others perceive him.
According to a report from the County’s Instructional Materials Review Committee, which heard the parent’s complaint and deliberated on the book, the parent — who was kept anonymous — “did not enjoy the book” and believed it was “inappropriate for children of any age to read.”
While the book was assigned to her child, she was offered an alternate assignment, which she declined, not wanting her child to be singled out.
It’s not clear what grade level the book was assigned at, but the committee’s conclusion — upheld by the school board — was that the book was “appropriate for secondary school students.”
“Monster” has been a frequent target of challenges over the book’s engagement with themes of racial injustice, as well as the use of adult language and references to sexual themes.
But Henrico’s review committee found that these concerns were insufficient to support the removal of the book, with the committee writing that the “language was purposeful and intentional to help the reader understand the fear felt by the main character.”
Myers himself addressed efforts to ban the book in an interview with the National Coalition Against Censorship in 2013.
“I think that most often the people wanting to censor books are well-meaning and concerned about the welfare of their children,” he said. “But I suggest that children will be exposed to the world in spite of their efforts, and that exposure is best handled in a school setting.”