In one of the quickest turnarounds in book banning history, the Oprah-approved She's Come Undone is back in circulation at the library of Connecticut's York Correctional Institution. "After a further review of the issue, the book has since been returned to circulation within the facility's library," York Correctional Institution library spokesman Andrius Banevicius said in a statement yesterday.
The Associated Press explains that the book was taken out of circulation after an inmate at a different state institution ordered it. "The department said the purchase was temporarily denied and the book was removed from circulation at the York Correctional Institution library due to 'some of the graphic nature" of the content.'" the AP reported. The book's author, Wally Lamb, 62, is a 14-year prison volunteer who currently teaches a twice weekly workshop at the York women's prison.
It is unclear when the Department of Correction's ban officially began, but Lamb was informed about situation by a prison librarian who was instructed to take it off the shelves, and on Wednesday, Lamb sent the following update to his Facebook page:
For those unfamiliar with the book, She's Come Undone isn't exactly as steamy 50 Shades of Grey nor as violent and cruel Misery. Millions of copies have been sold, thanks in part to its appearance in the Oprah Book Club. In the book, (SPOILER) the female protagonist, Dolores Price, is raped, has a same-sex dalliance, and is married twice. But the majority and true central theme of the book is the way in which Price picks up the pieces of her life—a message that could really resonate with prisoners.
Figuring what's good and what's bad for prisoners is an arbitrary endeavor: John Grisham's books were once banned in Gitmo, and James Patterson is banned in Texas jails, as are books by horror master Clive Barker. In 2011, the Texas Civil Rights Project examined banned books in the state's prison system and found that a primary reason given for bans was "sexually deviant behavior" and that the "expansive category is not just pornography—it includes many literary classics and works by respected authors." There is, of course, a massive difference between a depiction of the horror of sexual abuse versus a story that glamorizes it.
In Lamb's case, administrators quickly came to their senses: Michael Lawlor, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy's undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, caught wind of the ban and called correctional department authorities. "I pointed out that this book is a bestselling novel. It's kind of hard to imagine it would fit anyone's definition of pornography," Lawlor told the Hartford Courant late Thursday night, when the ban was lifted:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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