Supreme Court limits EPA and Muskego blocks book on Japanese internment camps

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Supreme Court rules against EPA effort to regulate power plant emissions in major climate suit

Muskego educators stopped from teaching book about WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans

  • District leaders have denied interview requests and issued a vague statement about why the book, “When the Emperor Was Divine” by Julie Otsuka, isn't moving forward as part of the Accelerated English curriculum. They said staff had to start over their process for choosing a new book for the class. In recent weeks, more than 100 parents and others have signed a petition asking the district to accept the book. National organizations and Otsuka herself have weighed in about the value of the text.

  • Parents in attendance at the committee meeting where the action was taken, including Ann Zielke and Alison Hapeman, who support the book, told the Journal Sentinel that committee member Laurie Kontney said she thought staff chose the book because it was "diverse" and that should not be the basis of choosing it. Kontney, in an email, said her words have been “spun to meet a narrative” and she wants to see a wider pool of book options considered. She also said she didn't think the book was rigorous enough to prepare students for the Advanced Placement English course and exam, arguing the book doesn't appear on lists of top books referenced on the exam or recommended for the AP course.

  • Of the three-person board committee, Tracy Blair was the only committee member to talk to the Journal Sentinel. Blair said her problem with the book was that she "didn’t feel it was a very good book,” was “too poetic,” and had bad reviews online. She also didn’t like that the characters didn’t have names. “It was just a hard book to read,” Blair said in an interview. “She had too much poetry in it.”

  • Otsuka, the book's author, said it's important for students to learn from the past and consider how racism against Asian Americans persists today. “Given the level of hatred that Asian Americans are experiencing in this current moment — every time we step out onto the street we are fearful — I think it is more important than ever that students learn about this country’s racist past," Otsuka said in a statement provided to the Journal Sentinel.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Muskego blocks book on Japanese internment camps