For the second time in four years, a Jewish group is calling for the removal of a title published by Canadian house Groundwood Books from recommended-reading lists at schools and libraries.
Anne Laurel Carter's novel The Shepherd's Granddaughter tells the story of Amani, a Palestinian girl who wants to be a shepherd. Her flock and family are threatened by encroaching Jewish settlements. This last plot point does not sit well with Jewish advocacy group B'Nai Brith. The organization issued a statement calling the book "anti-Israeli propaganda" and "a one-sided work of fiction which demonizes the Jewish State."
B'Nai Brith has written to a provincial ministry of education and Toronto's board of education to request the book's removal from recommended-reading lists. "It's not an appropriate tool. And an inappropriate tool should not be in the classroom," said Anita Bromberg, national director of legal affairs for B'Nai Brith.
Carter's novel, since being published in 2008, has been honored in eight award programs, and Groundwood thinks B'Nai Brith is unfairly targeting the title. Patsy Aldana, publisher of the Toronto-based house, said the book is "about a very important subject, and it's about a people whose stories never get told. She added: "The book has won the CLA (Canadian Library Association) award. Surely all of us are not people who are trying to invoke hatred of Israel."
The book is not part of the Toronto school board's curriculum, but it is one of 10 nominated titles in an Ontario Library Association voluntary reading program for children in grades seven and eight.
"For an organization to say to a school, you must remove this book, that's censorship," OLA executive director Shelagh Paterson said. "We would not be removing this book. And we hope that schools would not as well."
In 2006, the Toronto District School Board, the fourth largest school board in North America, restricted access to another award-winning Groundwood title about the conflict in Israel — Deborah Ellis's Three Wishes — after pressure from the Canadian Jewish Congress. The move was condemned by newspaper editorials and PEN Canada.