Warning: This post includes explicit language. If you’re not comfortable discussing curse words that appear in the texts our students read, you might want to skip this one.
“Shit fire son of a bitch!”
Yup, all of these words appear in the novels I’ve taught:
God damn = Of Mice and Men, 18 times
Shit = The Bean Trees, 4 times
Fuck = The Catcher in the Rye, 3 times – all in Holden’s discussion of the “fuck you” graffiti he spots at Phoebe’s school, btw
How do I know? Did I sit for hours with a highlighter and tally sheet? Nope. Amazon did the work for me.
My real-life librarian colleague Joni just showed me a hidden-in-plain-sight search feature on Amazon that’s useful if you need to research a book that’s been challenged by a parent, if you’re wondering whether to recommend an SSR novel that you haven’t yet read yourself, or when a kid asks how many times the phrase “green light” is actually used in The Great Gatsby. (The answer? Three – pages 11, 54, and 65 in the 2018 hardback Baker Street Press edition.)
Here’s how it works: (click any image to enlarge)
1. Search the title of the book at Amazon.com:
2. Find a copy that has the “Look inside” option:
3. Scroll down and enter your chosen word or phrase in the “Search Inside This Book” bar:
4. Dig into your results!
Another useful research resource is CommonSenseMedia.org, a tool my teacher bestie Annette shared a few years ago. This robust site covers classic texts and modern media and even includes parent/kid feedback, helpful when giving book recommendations or drafting reading lists. Definitely worth a look.
Finally, I have a simple rule that’s helped me avoid conflict when it comes to…uh…“mature” content in the books my kids choose to read. If a book is in our school library (and, yes, that includes Chuck Palahniuk), it’s fair game. If it’s questionable and not from our library, I’m going to need a note from a parent/guardian. So far, that rule’s kept me out of the principal’s office.
Read on, everyone!