Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » February 2014 » “Schooled Into Acting My Age: Go the Fuck to Sleep and a Case of University Censorship” by R.A. Drew

“Schooled Into Acting My Age: Go the Fuck to Sleep and a Case of University Censorship” by R.A. Drew

R.A. Drew, a student at University of Nevada, Reno, recently experienced a case of censorship over presenting Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortés’s bestselling Go the Fuck to Sleep as part of a class assignment. Drew contacted Adam, who passed this incredible story on to us. Read Drew’s account below:

SCHOOLED INTO ACTING MY AGE: Go the Fuck to Sleep and a Case of University Censorship
by R.A. Drew
Student, University of Nevada, Reno (Mathematics/Religious Studies)

GTFTS_NewCoverWhen the assignment in my Diversity in Education class required students to select from a list of races and nationalities on which to prepare a report, I was able to persuade the Professor to allow me to present the foodie culture instead of Inuits. He enjoyed my presentation so much, he kept interrupting my delivery to the class, pointing to my PowerPoint and exclaiming things like, “That’s Bacchus!” with his mouth full of the ox tails and yams I had passed around. My Communications Professor reluctantly, but finally, allowed me to divert from the list of twenty-five approved topics he’d been forcing onto his students for decades, to elect, alternatively, the “Jail-4-Judges” movement. He even let me trot out the founder of Redress, Inc., for an interview segment that I predicted would make my speech more original. I’ve grown accustomed to treating the standard “get the Professor’s approval” dance as a formality designed to prevent ridiculous students from surprising the class with topics that could get a Professor terminated or arrested. I was jolted, therefore, to encounter a Professor refusing to approve my choice of a book I’d been introduced to by a national news broadcast; a book that comes complete with charming illustrations of dreamland sequences including pajama-clad toddlers snuggling furry creatures while the moon shimmers in the midnight sky. I’m being censored over this? WTF!

I’m a Mathematics major at the University of Nevada, Reno. This major obliges the student to complete four semesters of a foreign language. Having spent a turbulent year tagging along with a Deaf expatriate Cuban as he fought for his Americans with Disabilities Act rights, I chose to study American Sign Language to fulfill my degree requirement. On the first day of what is now my second semester of American Sign Language, the instructor directed us to begin thinking about which children’s book we’ll choose, for an end-of-semester self-video in which each student will have to use sign language to tell the story. I immediately envisioned being subjected to thirty student videos of the same old same old: Goodnight Moon; the best of Dr. Seuss; Where the Wild Things Are. Classics. But an hour of this and I’ll be begging for someone to pass me the cyanide.

So, after class, I approached the instructor and asked her to approve a children’s book which I presumed would, on presentation day, wake up those members of the class who had already passed out: Go the Fuck to Sleep, written by Adam Mansbach, the 2010-11 New Voices Professor of Fiction at Rutgers University, and illustrated by Ricardo Cortés.

I expected a half-hearted skirmish. After all, Professors at Institutes of Higher Learning are, I presume, expert at extinguishing debates between themselves and teenagers who spent the last twenty-four hours hooking up and doing meth. But I did not expect, fifty-four-year-old that I am, to be treated like a teenager who’d spent the last twenty-four hours hooking up and doing meth.

The instructor gave me an immediate and intractable no. Among the more bizarre twists this dialogue took were her question about how often the title phrase of the book is used in the text (“on pretty much every page,” I confessed), and the moment when she flashed her gold cross necklace at me. If I’d been a vampire, she would have ended me right there. Still unaware that I was beating a dead horse, I attempted to reason with her. “I happen to have been raised Catholic,” I offered, “and I occasionally heard that word.”

Specifically, I grew up five miles north of the Tijuana, Mexico border. Preparing for my First Holy Communion, I used to get dragged around by my pigtails in the church yard of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was not only treated to the Catholic version of the fugitive word my American Sign Language instructor finds so objectionable, I was also treated to expletives directed at my obvious ethnicity, and then I was told that my classmate’s mother wept when the First Holy Communion photo of our cherubic faces arrived. It seems my face—that is, the skin color to which my face was attached—ruined the photograph. I digress to make the point that my instructor picked the wrong person with whom to play the Catholic card.

After careful consideration, including wondering if I would be able to survive an entire semester of this class, I decided to act my age. At my age, I will not stand quietly by and be censored under these circumstances. And that is what I will write on the approval sign-up sheet which will be passed around today in class.

Posted: Feb 7, 2014

Category: Akashic Insider | Tags: , , , , , , ,