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Author visit irks parent

Pamela Sund Herschlip may not be able to stomach the writing of Stanley Gordon West, but Fargo South High School students on Tuesday ate up every word the 75-year-old author shared about his work.

Stanley Gordon

Pamela Sund Herschlip may not be able to stomach the writing of Stanley Gordon West, but Fargo South High School students on Tuesday ate up every word the 75-year-old author shared about his work.

Two of West's books, "Finding Laura Buggs" and "Until the Streetcars Come Back" are part of the curriculum at South High and its

ninth-grade annex, South Campus II.

Both books have drawn the ire recently of Herschlip, a Fargo parent and technical college art teacher who has called for their removal from Fargo School District classrooms.

The books were created from "the pond" of memories and experiences West uses in his writing. Both deal with sexual abuse, but that's not the central theme, he says.

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"They're both about a senior in high school who gets challenged in the brutal, sometimes evil world. And they choose to do the right thing, even if it costs them," West said.

Herschlip complained to district officials about the books early this year, going public in late March.

She said West's books include passages about bondage, incest, murder and infanticide.

The books are being reviewed by a group of teachers, administrators and parents, said Bob Grosz, Fargo's assistant superintendent for instructional services.

In an e-mail sent Monday to Superintendent David Flowers, Herschlip charged that West's appearance in the schools is "an in-your-face attempt by the district to condone and endorse violent and sexually violent images."

At South, roughly 120 students in a Tuesday afternoon meeting listened and laughed as West shared observations about writing and life.

"I love these books," said Amanda Berg, 17. "Until the Streetcars Come Back" was so popular that "everyone pretty much finished it before they had to," she said.

"It's a book you can't put down," added Kaitlyn Johnson, 17.

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English teacher Susan Gigstad said the pull of West's writing is it deals with family, friends and relationships, "which is the prime concern to high school students."

Of 100 students in her four classes that have read "Until the Streetcars Come Back," two complained about the subject matter, Gigstad said.

Herschlip's protests are the first for any of his books, West said.

"She said some pretty nasty things about me (on her blog)," he said. "She's got her quest and I'm sure the Fargo School District has its policy."

On Tuesday, Herschlip said she's never met West or tried to contact him.

"I'm a very busy person. I have no desire to talk with the author," she said.

"I've encountered Stanley in his books," she said. He's "a person who's not respectful of the tender sensibilities of young people."

Herschlip said she knows a handful of people complaining about the books. When pressed on the subject, Herschlip said she's had input from two parents. She refused to share any names for interviews, saying the parents and students were afraid of retribution from the district.

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Herschlip charges that the district has no alternative book policy. However, Grosz, Gigstad and students interviewed said if students don't want to read West's books, others are offered.

Overall, West said response to his work over the years has been gratifying.

"A kid just came up to me 10 minutes ago (to say) thank you for writing it ("Streetcars"). If it happens with hundreds and hundreds (of young people), you know there's real value in it," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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