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Chris Abani's 'Graceland' removed from Florida reading list

August 9, 2010 |  8:11 am

Abani_gracelandA parent's complaint has removed Chris Abani's novel "Graceland" from the summer reading list for 10th-graders at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, Fla.

Abani's book, about a Nigerian boy and his transformation to city-tough Elvis impersonator, won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award; it was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

"Graceland" includes passages of brutal violence, but it is the sexual content of a torture scene that the Florida mother found objectionable.

She was "outraged," JAX-4 TV reported. The television station received an e-mail requesting that it investigate; the mother making the complaint did not appear in the report.

The book was one of three on the standard reading list for 10-graders, along with "Runner" by Carl Deuker and "Purple Hibiscus" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, coming-of-age stories set in Seattle and Nigeria, respectively. Students were instructed to read two of the three books over the summer. Honors students had a slightly different list; Abani's book appeared there as well.

Now Abani's "Graceland" has been pulled from the reading lists by Duval County public school officials.

Abani was born in Nigeria; more than once, his writing and work in the theater had him thrown in prison there. He is now a professor of creative writing at UC Riverside.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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