Next week is Banned Book Week and to get ready Sheila over at Book Journey is having a week long event.
In honor of this blessed event I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
Junior lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. On the first day of high school he receives a textbook with his mother’s name in it. Horrified, he realizes that 30 year old textbooks are an example of the poor education that he is going to receive on the reservation. He decides to go to a high school in a town where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
What starts out as an attempt not to get trapped into the cycle of poverty that is all he knows on the reservation turns into an ordeal as his Indian friends accuse him of “acting white” and the white kids don’t want anything to do with an Indian.
So, what so bad about this book that it gets people all up in arms? From pages 39-40.
“I spend hours in the bathroom with a magazine that has one thousand pictures of naked movie stars:
Naked woman + right hand = happy happy joy joy
Yep, that’s right, I admit that I masturbate.
I’m proud of it.
I’m good at it.
If there were a Professional Masturbators League, I’d get drafted number one and make millions of dollars.
And maybe you’re thinking, “Well, you really shouldn’t be talking about masturbation in public.”
Well, tough, I’m going to talk about it because EVERYBODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it.
And if God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs.
So I thank God for my thumbs.”
From Colorlines on Aug. 2, 2013:
“According to the New York Daily News, middle schoolers at Public School 114 in Rockaway, Queens, won’t be reading Sherman Alexie’s prized illustrated novel. The school seems to have caved in to pressure from at least one angry parent and phone calls from the tabloid about the book.
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” which is roughly based on Alexie’s own experiences as a youth, tells the moving story of a Native kid from the rez who winds up at an all white school with an offensive mascot. It’s the winner of several prizes, including the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The novel features racial and sexual themes. And it was the book’s references to masturbation that irked one parent enough to protest the novel in its entirety.
It’s not the first time the book’s been censored. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” has been taken off of readings lists in Oregon, Washington, Missouri. It was banned by Washington’s Richland School District—until board members actually read the book and reversed their decision.“
Wow, they read the book? Or more to the point – they hadn’t read the book before they voted to ban it? From American Libraries Magazine:
“Two board members who had originally ruled against the 2007 winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Mary Guay and Rick Donahoe, later said their votes had been a mistake, the Tacoma News Tribunereported July 14; a revote is allowed when a member who voted with the majority asks to revisit an issue, said board President Richard Jansons.
The reconsideration came after the board learned that not all members of the district’s Instructional Materials Committee, recently established to review all books used in the schools, had read it. After personally reading the novel, Donahoe said he found it to be “outstanding.” He and Guay said that in the future they will read every book they are to vote on.
Most speakers at the board’s meeting appeared to be in favor of retaining the novel. Teacher Kim Maldonado said a Native American 10th-grader to whom she gave the book “read it five times. It changed his life. It made him understand his heritage and his issues with his father.”
David Garber, a member of the IMC who also belongs to a group that rates books based on how much of their contents it finds offensive, read from a Wall Street Journal article slamming coarse themes and language in YA novels; the article cited Absolutely True as an example.
Residents who want to see what the controversy is about may have a hard time: Kennewick’s KVEW-TV reported July 12 that all 10 copies at the Richland Library are not only checked out but have holds.”
And there is the irony. Banning books doesn’t mean people won’t read them. If means more people will have heard of them and want to see what all the fuss is about. I’m sure that now that I’ve written all those banned, naughty words in this post I’ll get lots of attention on this one. (SPAM Filter on maximum stun.)
To enable you to read more of these nasty, nasty books that people want to protect you from, I’m running a giveaway.