Challenged Book Spotlight: Snow Falling on Cedars

Each morning for ten years, teacher David Guterson would rise in the early morning to work on his novel before heading off to school. Such dogged determination would have an immense reward: Snow Falling on Cedars. Published in 1995, Guterson's first novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award that same year. Once it became more widely available in paperback, sales went through the roof as it's popularity grew and it was adapted into a film in 1999.
San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt. For on San Pedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries--memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense-- one that leaves us shaken and changed.
from Vintage (Publisher)

In 2007, Snow Falling on Cedars was challenged by a parent as required reading for 11th grade students in the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho school district. Vulgar language, vulgar subject and adult material harmful to minors were the stated reason for the challenge (because 11th graders can't handle the "F-word"). The challenge was referred to a school district Review Committee, whose job it was to review the challenge and then make a recommendation to the school district's trustees.

Their recommendation? Thankfully it was to leave the book on the reading list, and the trustees then voted 3-2 to accept this recommendation. So now we know that at least three of the trustees up there are sane.

(On a sad note, however, in a town not 20 miles from where I live in Washington State, the South Kitsap County School District school board voted 3-2 to go ahead and remove Snow Falling on Cedars from their reading list.)

Article of interest: Coeur d'Alene Press Newspaper
And yet another one: Spokesman Review


  1. I really have to wonder if the people who thought this book wasn't appropriate for 11th graders have ever actually spent any time around 11th graders. They're 17, for pete's sake! I can guarantee they've all heard the F-word before.

  2. Agreed. If anyone wants to know where their kid learned all those obscenities, try the school bus!


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