A Tale As Old As Time
My local school district, like many around the country, is embroiled in a battle over books. Lists are circulating with titles to be removed from libraries. Many of these books tell the truth about hard topics. At a book festival event, a man came up to our table and asked if we’d like him to read what he called the “pornographic” parts of a YA book on the list. Since I’d already read many of the books and knew the context behind the content, I declined.
He was right that the books contain some difficult scenes. It’s a difficult world.
“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”
“All like ours?”
“I don’t know; but I think so. […]”
“Which do we live on—a splendid one or a blighted one?”
“A blighted one.”
–Tess of the D’Urbervilles, chapter 4
I first read Tess of the D’Urbervilles in a high school AP English class. I remember being worried about the scene in which she became, as Hardy deems it, “Maiden No More,” but it was not in any way pornographic—I flat out missed it, and fumbled back, rereading the paragraph until I understood Hardy’s prose. The fallout was harder than the moment. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up Karen Swallow Prior’s new edition of Tess, with a Guide to Reading & Reflecting. Now my copy is full of underlines and dogeared corners. I begged a friend to read it so we can discuss it in our semi-regular walking book club. She and I share a love of banned books.
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