State reverses York decision to ban 1992 Lamb novel

Sean D. Elliot/The Day This Nov. 4, 2009, file photo shows author Wally Lamb outside his Willimantic office.

The state Department of Correction has reversed a decision to ban noted author Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone" from the library shelves at York Correctional Institution and will cancel a similar review of a book written by York inmates who were students in Lamb's writing workshop at the prison.

Lamb posted news of the ban of "She's Come Undone" on his Facebook page Wednesday. He wrote in the posting that the department had found a few sex scenes objectionable — Lamb described them as "tame by today's standards" — and felt the scenes "negate the value of the novel's message about the necessity of personal rehabilitation."

The 1992 novel, which sold well after being selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, follows a troubled teenage girl into adulthood, from a TV-addicted overweight youth to a determined young woman.

In the same Facebook message, Lamb also objected to the pending review of "I'll Fly Away," calling both reviews "absurd." Lamb wrote that he had facilitated the writers' workshop for the past 14 years at the Niantic prison and said the book was "vetted and approved by DOC before its 2007 publication."

Lamb, a native of Norwich, could not be reached Thursday to comment on the issue.

DOC spokesman Andrius Banevicius said Thursday that both the decision to ban on "She's Come Undone" and to review of "I'll Fly Away" have been reversed.

Banevicius said "She's Come Undone" came under review by the department's Media Review Board on Aug. 6 when an inmate at the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire ordered the book. Manson houses inmates ages 14 to 20, Banevicius said.

The purchase of the book was denied temporarily, Banevicius said, and the book was removed temporarily from circulation in York's library "due to some of the graphic nature of the book's content."

He could not say when the decision was reversed, or whether the reversal was in response to Lamb's criticism. Banevicius said it "came to light" that the ban and the pending review had become an issue, and the department reconsidered and reversed the decisions.

"After a further review of the issue, the book has since been returned to circulation within the facility's library," Banevicius wrote in a statement. "The department's policy states that publications can be rejected by the review board for a variety of reasons, 'unless those materials which, taken as a whole, are literary, artistic, educational or scientific in nature,' in which case an exception is made."

Banevicius said the Media Review Board, which reviews books that inmates order through vendors prior to them being delivered to the facility, was created long after the Lamb books were donated to the York Correctional Institution.

c.bessette@theday.com

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