littlebrotherOn BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow writes about a high school in Pensacola, Florida that had been scheduled to have his novel Little Brother in its summer reading program until the principal put his foot down.

In an email conversation with Ms Griffith, the principal cited reviews that emphasized the book’s positive view of questioning authority, lauding "hacker culture", and discussing sex and sexuality in passing. He mentioned that a parent had complained about profanity (there’s no profanity in the book, though there’s a reference to a swear word). In short, he made it clear that the book was being challenged because of its politics and its content.

Ultimately, the entire schoolwide One Book/One School program was cancelled. Little Brother is now an optional title for grade 11 AP English students.

As a result, Doctorow has gotten Tor to agree to send 200 copies of Little Brother to the school to “help fight back against censorship.” He’s also passing along a couple of posters and an exclusive UK edition of the book for the school’s charity auction, and will still be doing a videoconference in the fall with as many students as want to participate.

I can’t say that Little Brother is my favorite Doctorow book—as I’ve said before, I tend to prefer there to be more interesting ideas and less preachiness in my reads—but to shut down the entire reading program because it’s a selected title? Talk about petty and small-minded. That being said, I’ll bet this gets a lot more students interested in reading it. Streisand Effect, ho!

As with all of Doctorow’s books, there is a freely downloadable DRM-free multi-format e-book version up on Doctorow’s web site.


  1. Why send print copies? Just publicize the URL for the ebook! Never mind, I’m over focused on ebooks, I know there are people who don’t like ’em.

  2. Well, I’m sure they already made that known, given that it’s free and all. But print books are artifacts with heft and weight, and nothing says “In your face, Mr. Principal Guy!” like the sight of dozens of kids walking around with one. :) Plus, it’s generally verboten to have electronic gadgets in school.

  3. Little Brother isn’t my favorite Cory Doctorow book either — too grim and tense. But too much stuff that happens in the past couple of years reminds me of the events in the book. Case in point: in one swift move, this one school principal painted himself as a villain who would be right at home in Little Brother. How tone-deaf can you get?

  4. I’ll also note that I donated a hardcover copy of it to the high school library where my Mom was librarian back when it first came out. I like to think of it quietly sitting there on the shelves, corrupting impressionable young minds…

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