After completing– or, at least, halfheartedly attempting– their summer assignments, Blair students reconvened on campus and debated one piece of literature in particular: Uncensored. The All-School Read Committee selected Zachary R. Wood’s biography as a follow-up to his talk at a school meeting last spring during which he encouraged “uncomfortable conversations.” Like the story he shared last year, Uncensored was predominantly an account of Wood’s difficult childhood, highlighting themes of racial injustice and economic disparity.
Besides addressing relevant issues, Uncensored generated discussion among community members. Mr. Moore, the faculty advisor of the All-School Read Committee, informed The Oracle in a past interview that the group’s objective is to promote student-led literary discussions, rather than those led by teachers. The student body’s polarized reaction to Uncensored led to passionate conversations about the book, making it successful in achieving that goal.
Some readers were captivated by the narrative surrounding Woods’ upbringing and the way in which he was able to thrive despite the hardships that came with unstable living conditions, poverty, a schizophrenic mother, and code-switching as a black male attending elite private schools. However, others felt that the narrative style of the book was “boring” and some perceived the author’s tone as “arrogant” as he recounted his myriad accomplishments. Many students noted its “repetitive” themes.
New student Ari Albino ’23 expressed her dislike for the book, saying that the author “advocated for things that aren’t right.” Specifically, she noted that the author modeled unhealthy behavior in his book, disregarding sleep and nutrition in pursuit of success.
As students remain divided in their opinions of the book, many are curious about the motivation behind the All-School Read Committee’s choice, which a number of people felt was controversial.
As a member of the committee, Madeline McNamara ’20 read a variety of books from which the All-School Read was to be chosen. Though Uncensored was not her first choice, she acknowledges that the 2019 All-School Read was the “right decision,” as it is “really well-written and [tackles how to address tough] conversational topics in a … non-biased way.” The committee chose the biography because it is “an interesting book that most students can relate to in at least some aspects.”
Though the All-School Read is not incorporated into class curriculum, a schoolwide poll revealed that 35 of its 64 respondents have discussed Uncensored in at least one of their classes. Some students were instructed to write paragraphs and journal entries about the book; it tended to be covered briefly in English classes, an experience shared by multiple respondents. One student recalled a class discussion comparing Uncensored to the English 1 summer reading assignment: The Great Gatsby.
In addition to choosing the summer All-School Read, the committee organizes events to further facilitate conversation among students, such as MLK Day Seminars, Chapels, and round-table discussions. As students maintain their differing opinions of Zachary R. Wood’s Uncensored, they can expect future opportunities for group discussions.
Copyright Abby Morris 2019