Kurt Vonnegut's Letter To Drake High School: 'You Have Insulted Me'

'You Have Insulted Me, I Am A Good Citizen'

Drake High School in North Dakota made headlines in October of 1973 when school board members burned 32 copies of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter-House Five because they found it "objectionable," the Minot Daily News reports.

The Daily News article from that day quoted Drake Public School Board President Charles McCarthy, who told the paper he didn't think the book was fit for children.

"We didn't approve of its obscene language," McCarthy said Nov. 9, 1973. "It might pass in a college, but not in this school."

Now, it turns out, Vonnegut wrote to the school board the following month expressing his disgust and contempt. From popular blog Letters Of Note:

November 16, 1973

Dear Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.

Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.

I want you to know, too, that my publisher and I have done absolutely nothing to exploit the disgusting news from Drake. We are not clapping each other on the back, crowing about all the books we will sell because of the news. We have declined to go on television, have written no fiery letters to editorial pages, have granted no lengthy interviews. We are angered and sickened and saddened. And no copies of this letter have been sent to anybody else. You now hold the only copy in your hands. It is a strictly private letter from me to the people of Drake, who have done so much to damage my reputation in the eyes of their children and then in the eyes of the world. Do you have the courage and ordinary decency to show this letter to the people, or will it, too, be consigned to the fires of your furnace?

According to the blog post, Vonnegut never received a reply. To read the rest of the author's letter, click over to Letters of Note.

While burning books may not be the way we go about book-banning these days, it seems the battle against Vonnegut's novel still wages on.

Last year, a school board in Republic, Mo., voted 4-0 to ban Slaughterhouse-Five from the high school curriculum and library, as well as Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, for contradicting teachings in the Bible.

A few months later, however, the school board reversed its decision, saying the books will be available for students' independent reading, as long as they are kept in a "secure section" of the school library, and only parents and guardians can check them out.

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