The TDSB cancelled a book club event with Marie Henein and said a book by Nadia Murad, who was abducted by Islamic State militants, would promote Islamaphobia
Two weeks after the Toronto District School Board said students were not to attend a book club event featuring lawyer Marie Henein, they will now be allowed to read her book.
“I’m really happy that the students will be able to participate,” Lee said Thursday. “The book club has always been about students and I know all the students will love it.”
Lee said she’s hoping to do a second event with Henein in January where students can join from across the country and learn about the law from Canadian women attorneys. The school board said it would need to discuss the event with Lee, but students would likely be allowed to attend.
“It’s gonna be a phenomenal event,” said Lee.
National Post reached out to the school boards and trustees in the London and Owen Sound areas for comment on the decision to allow students there to attend last week’s Henein lecture; they did not respond by press time.
Lee has been running the A Room of Your Own book club for roughly four years, a club that offers books to teenage girls, often from lower-income families, and then hosts events about the books, usually with the teacher running the local club.
“They just talk about the book and they have a great old time talking about it,” said Lee. “I usually choose books that have wonderful female protagonists of various abilities and from all different backgrounds.”
The issue of Henein’s book caused controversy two weeks ago, when The Globe and Mail reported Lee was told students couldn’t read the book because she had defended CBC star Jian Ghomeshi against sexual assault charges in 2016.
“They told me straight out ‘no’ because (Henein) defended Jian Ghomeshi and how do you explain that to little girls,” Lee told The Globe.
Lee says she’s never had the school board object to a book — or a book club event — before.
The board, however, said that wasn’t the reason why students could not attend the event.
“An opinion that did not reflect the position of the Toronto District School Board was shared with the organizer of a book club prior to staff having an opportunity to read the planned books — something that is routinely done before giving them to students,” the school board said.
Lee said such a prior review hasn’t happened before, to her knowledge.
“I’ve ran book clubs with the TDSB, like with their students, for four years, and that’s the first time that’s ever happened,” Lee said. “They usually read the books while the girls, while the students, are reading it.”
In February, students in the book club will have the chance to hear from Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi who was abducted by Islamic State militants in 2014. She’s the author of a memoir, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, and the founder of Nadia’s Initiative, which advocates for survivors of sexual violence, and a recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
Lee said she was initially told by the Toronto District School Board that Murad’s book could be seen as promoting Islamophobia.
The event will go ahead, Lee said. She’s hoping for a national event, and says she would love for the library of Parliament to host it — but Murad’s book is still under consideration by the TDSB.
“(Murad’s) book is still being read and we hope to approve shortly,” wrote Bird.
The Post reached out to Nadia’s Initiative, seeking an interview with Murad, but did not hear back by deadline.