‘Dear Martin’ author responds to book controversy in Monett

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 8:38 PM CST
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MONETT, Mo. (KY3) - The author of “Dear Martin” is responding to controversy in Monett over the book after the district pulled it out of a lesson plan earlier this month.

The school district says “Dear Martin” was pulled from an English class because teachers didn’t follow the correct protocol to have it added to curriculum.

Author Nic Stone says she understands protocol has to be followed properly but her biggest issue is the fact the book was replaced with “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

”What Dear Martin attempts to do is show how racism is experienced by the people actually experiencing it,” Stone says. “As opposed to showing it through the lens of someone else. Someone who is kind of looking at it from the outside and doing their best to be empathetic but experience and empathy are very very different.”

Although Stone says “To Kill A Mockingbird” is one of her favorite books, it was published in the 1960s.

“The way that race relations functioned then is a little different from now,” Stone says. “Things that that book is addressing back then differ from what ‘Dear Martin’ is addressing now. ‘Dear Martin’ was inspired by a number of true events. The death of Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida. The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Watching these Black boys lose their lives for no reason at all, it really sparked something for me as a mother of Black boys.”

Monett Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Drake says the book isn’t being taught in class, but it isn’t banned from the district.

“The book ‘Dear Martin’ has been in our library before this book was proposed in the curriculum and during the controversy and is still there today,” Drake says. “Students have access to reading this book anytime they want.”

Drake says the district has grown and learned through this controversy.

“It has definitely shown us that there are different people on both sides of the issue, and I think that even with current curriculum we have, we need to look at those books and make sure that they’re a way that students are interested in them and engaging and getting the standards that we need to teach,” Drake says.

Stone is asking for parents and students to give her book a chance.

“Be open to reading it first,” Stone says. “If you read it, and you don’t like it, and you don’t want your kids reading it, totally fine. I have no qualms with anybody who says they don’t like what’s in the book.”

Regardless of if her book is taught in the future, Stone says her hope is that other books like “Dear Martin” will be talked about in school moving forward.

“It’s super important that kids who look like me, who grow up the way that I did, get to see themselves in a story both dealing with challenges and overcoming them,” Stone says. “And it’s important for kids who do not look like me to see kids looking like me dealing with challenges and overcoming them.”

The goal is for a book review committee to be in place before the fall semester in Monett. Drake says faculty members will review new books before they’re placed in the curriculum, which would allow changes to be made ahead of the 2022 and 2023 school year.

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