The Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Thursday, February 6, 1997
page A3

Conservatives distorting book's views, author says

by Joanne Laucius Writer Joyce Carol Oates says she's saddened and distressed by attempts to ban her acclaimed 1996 book Foxfire in one Ontario high school.

Both a Milton parent group and an MPP have tried to get Foxfire, a book about a gang of teenaged girls, removed from classrooms.

Conservative MPP Terrence Young, who has only read excerpts, found some language "obscene" and some "pornographic".

In a written response to an interview request Wednesday, Oates said she's upset because she feels the book has been distorted beyond recognition.

"The novel is actually about sisterhood among young teenaged girls", said Oates, who is writer-in-residence at Princeton University.

"It has no lesbian or homosexual scenes (in fact no erotic scenes at all!). There are no gang rapes. Far from male-bashing, the novel makes the point if anyone cares to read it, that radical feminist distrust and repudiation of men is mistaken."

Mary Brett, a University of Ottawa student who is writing a PhD thesis on Oates' two dozen novels, says Oates often explores the minds of victims and abusers and is successful in drawing readers into those worlds.

"When you're a reader of her stuff, you become a participant. It becomes uncomfortable. She's an uncomfortable writer", says Brett.

The call to ban Foxfire puts it in the company of such books as Shakespeare's Merchant of Venus and Margaret Laurence's The Diviners.

The controversy has ignited speculation that Ontario's new school councils may also get more actively involved in what books are in the curriculum.

The councils, which consist mostly of volunteer parents, have been in operation since September. They were established to advise principals on issues including curriculum.

Oates says she thinks community standards need to be applicable in public education, but she's not going to become personally involved.

"Other young readers of the novel, including high school boys, have responded positively to Foxfire, so perhaps I can take consolation in that."

Copyright © 1997 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.