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Alice Munro challenges censorship

The Story

The censors' knives were out for Alice Munro. In Huron Country, where she grew up and resides in 1979, the school board has considered a local pressure group's demand that Munro's Lives of Girls and Women and three other books be stricken from reading lists for Grade 12 and 13 students. Along with other members of the Writers' Union of Canada, she spoke out against the proposed ban at a public meeting in June 1978 - an event she describes to Harry Brown of CBC-TV's Take 30.

Medium: Television
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: Jan. 19, 1979
Guest: Alice Munro
Hosts: Harry Brown, Hana Gartner
Duration: 8:26

Did You know?

• In 1976 a high school principal in Peterborough, Ont. pushed to have Munro's 1971 book Lives of Girls and Women removed from the Grade 13 reading list because of "the explicit language and description of sex scenes," according to the Globe and Mail. The book was also banned in Alberta schools in the 1970s.

• The three other books targeted as blasphemous or too explicit in Huron County in 1978 were John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Margaret Laurence's The Diviners. In August 1978 the school board voted that it would ban only The Diviners from the five high schools in the county.

• According to Pearce J. Carefoot's book Forbidden Fruit: Banned, Censored and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter, the incident in Huron County inspired the Book and Periodical Council of Canada to launch Freedom to Read Week, an annual celebration of freedom of expression.

• Munro wrote the screenplay for an episode of the 1978 CBC-TV production The Newcomers, a seven-part miniseries about the experiences of immigrants to Canada. Munro's segment told the stories of the Irish who arrived in 1847 after escaping the potato famine.

• For more on censorship of books in Canadian schools, see the following CBC Digital Archives clips:

•  Ontario, Saint John ban classic books

•  High school 'cleanses library'

•  Laurence's books banned





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