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Some West Essex H.S. Students, Parents Disapprove Of ‘Pornographic’ Book

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NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) — Some New Jersey parents are claiming a Pulitzer Prize-winning book is too risque for their teenagers.

“Dirty, disgusting, pornographic” is how 16-year-old Noah Lazarovitch described the book, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which is a New York Times best seller and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Junot Diaz.

As CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported Wednesday, the book was assigned reading in Noah’s sophomore English class at West Essex High School.

“It was pretty surprising that something like this could be in a school,” Noah said.

The text is riddled with curse words.

“It wasn’t there to get a point across. It was there unnecessarily. And it didn’t contribute to the story,” he added.

“They weren’t inferring sexual acts, they were actually graphically describing them,” Noah’s mother Dale Lazarovitch said.

Lazarovitch said the book doesn’t belong on a tenth-grade curriculum and she challenged its inclusion.

“We said to the Board of Ed, ‘could you read this piece out loud’ and none of them could,” Lazarovitch said.

The book has been on the curriculum since 2011 and the school said this is the first time they’ve heard any complaints.

“This goes on every day. The kids know what’s happening, let them read the book. It’s part of life experience,” one New Jersey resident said.

Barbara Longo, Superintendent of Schools for West Essex Regional School District, said “The English Department rewrote all of its curricula to address the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards.” Longo added that “The book met all of the selection criteria set forth by the board.”

“If students and teenagers are capable of handling William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” a play that certainly has its fair share of violence, intimacy and family drama, then they can handle Diaz’s wonderfully complex novel,” said Dr. Dennis Tyler, professor of African-American literature at Fordham University.

Dr. Tyler added that if it isn’t read, teens will miss a real opportunity to discuss race and sexuality.

Author Junot Diaz told CBS 2 he believes tenth-grade students are mature enough to read the book, saying “I see no problem with high school students reading the novel under the guidance of their teachers.”

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