Dallas High School Bans Books, the Problem with Sentimentality, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories:

Banned Books Week is well under way, but the Highland Park school district in Dallas has temporarily removed seven books from its approved list for high school students, citing the books’ sexually explicit content. Jeannette Walls, whose memoir The Glass Castle was on the list of removed books, responded, “My book has ugly elements to it, but it’s about hope and resilience, and I don’t know why that wouldn’t be an important message. Sometimes you have to walk through the muck to get to the message.” Other books on the list include Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, and John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines. (Dallas Morning News)

Meanwhile, John Green, author most recently of the young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars, has launched a campaign to raise $100,000 to help bring clean water to Ethiopia. Bill Gates agreed to match the campaign if it reached $100,000; it has already surpassed $130,000. (Time)

“Sentimentality is simply emotion shying away from its own full implications. Behind every sentimental narrative there’s the possibility of another one—more richly realized, more faithful to the fine grain and contradictions of human experience.” In this week’s installment of the New York Times Bookend series, writer Leslie Jamison and novelist Zoë Heller explore the risks and implications of sentimentality in literature.

On the subject of feelings, at the Rumpus, Cynthia-Marie Marmo O’Brien interviews M. E. Thomas, the author of the 2013 memoir Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, about cognitive versus emotional empathy and the trickiness of writing a memoir that does not feel overtly manipulative.

Adam Mansbach, author of the popular children’s book for adults Go the F**k to Sleep, will release a sequel, You Have to F**king Eat, with Akashic Books in November. (Akashic Books)

Slate and the Whiting Foundation have teamed up to promote and honor “neglected second novels lingering on the shelf.” Slate will compile a list of second novels published in the last five years, Whiting Award–winners will vote to select the finalists, and then a panel of judges—Dan Kois, Yiyun Li, Sarah McNally, Sasha Weiss, and Colson Whitehead—will choose the top five, who will be honored at a celebration in December in New York City.

Susan Klebold, the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two Columbine High School shooters, has sold her memoir to Crown Publishers. The profits from the book will be donated to charities focused on mental health issues. (Publishers Weekly)

At the Guardian, scholar John Garth discusses the poem J. R. R. Tolkien wrote one hundred years ago today that inspired his famous fantasy series The Lord of the Rings.