The New York Times book blog, Paper Cuts, reported last week in a post about book banning that Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison keeps a framed 1998 letter on her wall from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The letter explains why her novel, Paradise, was banned from Texas prisons. The novel — about four women living near a small, all-black Oklahoma town who are attacked by vigilantes — “contains material that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve a breakdown of prisons through inmate disruption such as strikes or riots.”
But that’s no longer the case, it seems. TDCJ changed its policies.
Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said that Paradise was banned in 1998 because it contained “racial slurs,” which typically referenced the n-word, among others. But in 2001, the book was approved for reading in the Texas prisons, as the department’s policy changed to allow books that contained racial slurs if they were in service of a broader story deemed acceptable. So, Lyons said, racial slurs are now viewed in the “entire context” of a book.