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Twin Cities High School Bans Steinbeck, Watson Novellas

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota high school has ordered instructors to stop teaching students about two novellas in the wake of complaints that their content is racist and anti-Native American.

Administrators at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights have ordered staff to stop teaching John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Larry Watson's "Montana 1948," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday.

They said families and staff had complained about racist stereotypes and slurs in "Of Mice and Men," which was first published in 1937. The novella last made the American Library Association's most-challenged books list in 2004.

"Montana 1948" was first published in 1993. Sibley administrators said the Native American community is upset with the book because the protagonist's uncle sexually assaults and murders a Sioux housekeeper. The book has been censored elsewhere.

The two books have been part of the school's curriculum for several years. Students have been reassigned a series of short stories to replace the books.

The school district's spokeswoman, Carrie Ardito, said the complaints have highlighted a need for a policy that reconsiders instructional materials.

Watson, who grew up in North Dakota, told the newspaper by email on Monday that any attempt to defend "Montana 1948" would seem self-serving. He didn't have adolescents in mind when he wrote the book and never thought many people would read it, let alone use it in classrooms.

The school district voted earlier this month to drop Henry Sibley from the high school's name following complaints that he mistreated Minnesota's Dakota people.

Sibley commanded troops in the U.S.-Dakota War and established the military commission that in 1862 sentenced 303 Dakota men to death. Thirty-eight of them were victims of a mass hanging.


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