Committee recommends reinstating novel banned from class

By The Associated Press
01.05.07

CARROLL, Iowa — A review committee will recommend that the Carroll school district reinstate What's Eating Gilbert Grape? to the district's curriculum and keep it in the school library.

The panel was given the task of reviewing the book after Superintendent Rob Cordes decided last November to ban it from Carroll High School's literature-to-film class due to its sexual content.

The committee — comprised of eight district employees, community members and students — voted 5-3 on Jan. 2 in favor of the novel, written by West Des Moines native Peter Hedges.

The committee's decision will be forwarded to the school district board, which will make the final decision.

The 1991 book deals with a young man's experiences with his troubled family in the fictional Iowa town of Endora.

Cordes removed the book from the class after a student's parents complained that a portion of the book was inappropriate for teenagers. Cordes and the parents have acknowledged that they did not read the book.

Some committee members have agreed the novel has objectionable sexual content but said many reluctant readers may relate to the characters.

"I know we have kids that find themselves in families that don't have the white picket fence or the ideal situation we all think we're going to have when we walk down the aisle," said Lisa Dreesman, a committee member and Carroll Middle School media specialist. "I think this book speaks loudly to those kids in those types of families."

Committee member Sue Ruch, who is also district curriculum director and Adams Elementary School principal, was among those who voted against the book. She said the book should be available to students through the school library but stressed that the district should be sensitive to all its students.

"(I'm) appalled that this was in the curriculum," she said. "It doesn't strike me as a quality piece of literature."