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Isabel Lyman Book Reviews by Izzy Lyman

The Year They Burned the Books The Year They Burned the Books
by Nancy Garden

This book is young adult fiction with a '90s twist; it features gay teenagers at a small, coastal high school.

Senior Jamie Crawford, editor of the Wilson High Telegraph, takes a bold stance when she writes an opinion piece supporting the schoolís sex ed curriculum. Translated: She thinks condoms should be made available to fellow students. Concurrently, Jamie is realizing that she is a lesbian and has become infatuated with a new girl, Tessa Gillespie.

Meanwhile, several school board members are harping about Jamieís editorial, provocative health class texts, and the overall decline of family values at Wilson High. If that isnít enough to make grades plummet, Jamie and Terry Gage, the Telegraphís sports editor and a homosexual, must cope with being harassed by a clique of dumb jocks.

The American Library Association will find much to applaud in this tale of adolescent angst, since it tackles the hot-button issues of censorship and prejudice. But letís be clear, this is a propaganda piece. Nearly all the conservative/straight characters are typecast as knee-jerk Puritans, while those who are liberal/gay are tolerant and martyr-like. Hmm.

Garden does deserve kudos for accurately depicting the modern-day American public school as the playground for social engineers that it has become. The mythical Wilson High is a morally-ambiguous institution where academics are a peripheral matter. Students spend oodles of time learning about safe sex, distributing broadsheets, battling bigots, and participating in extracurricular activities.

No wonder homeschooling is on the rise.

This article appeared in The Oklahoman on September 19, 1999.

Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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