The book’s first chapter is filled with the use of the N-word.
For example, sentences contain such words as “would have alarmed a paranoid n-,”, “Even my boys were like, n-, sounds like you’re wasting”, “I’m the only n- on board”, “when she smiles n- ask her for”, “he sounds like the sort of n-who”.
But library officials says that so long as the word is used in context it’s not really an issue.
Janet Woodbridge, CEO of the Essex County Library System, said “is it vernacular, is it to describe a period piece – for instance if you’re talking about the slave trade or an historical novel then the language would be there…..if its talking about street talk amongst blacks where they’re derogatory to each other they might use the N-word.”
Chris Woodrow, Acting CEO of the Windsor Public Library, said all six copes of the book by the Pulitzer-winning author had been checked out.
Woodrow asked his librarians about the book, “and they’re telling me that in the context of the work it’s not inappropriate.”
But, he said, the work is also “very earthy…it’s very graphic” noting “it’s a style he (the author) has.”
Neither Woodbridge nor Woodrow have received complaints about the book.
Nor have they received many complaints about any books or other materials in their libraries’ inventories.
Woodbridge, who has been at the county library system four years and previously was with Windsor Public Library, said the library acquires books based on reviews and customer requests.
Another book which might be questionable is the highly popular erotic series Fifty Shades of Grey, which has had more than over 300 holds placed.
“It’s a very difficult road to walk when your providing material because you want to satisfy what our customers are reading and what they want to read and yet we know at some point in time some of the good material that some customers read would offend others,” she said.
While the library has Fifty Shades of Grey “on the other side of the spectrum” it also has a high readership of Christian fiction.”
Woodrow says he doesn’t “recall” any complaints about use of the N-word about this or other books since arriving at the library in 2003.
That’s not to say the library has never received complaints about books but they have tended to fall into the familiar terrain of criticism over such long time controversial works as The Catcher in the Ryeby J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Woodrow said complainants may find too much violence or sex.
“We do have a process whereby a group of librarians meet to review what the complaint is, review whether in fact it’s appropriate to circulate the book and then they issue a decision,” he said.
Woodbridge said people who wish to have a work removed must first fill out a form stating why and agreeing that they have read the work in full.
“If there is an objection to any material in our collection we ask that it be reported and the public fill out a request for reconsideration and we would be visiting the item in question that would seem to be objectionable. Our librarians would review it and a decision would be made whether to keep it in the collection based on the quality of the literature or withdraw it or move it...to an appropriate place in the collection.”
Woodbridge said the library adheres to the Canadian Library Association’s Statement of Intellectual Freedom, which states that all persons have the right “to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity.
“It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable.”
The Díaz book’s stories are also known for their violence and demeaning references to women.
But, says on reviewer, the fact Yunior is, “both victim and perpetrator reveals something critical about the nature of violence itself. It poisons both those who wield it, and those who receive its blows.”