Sherman Alexie’s award-winning young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has yet again become the subject of a school censorship dispute. The suitability of Alexie’s novel for the English curriculum of sophomore students at Meridian School, Idaho, was called into question after a grandparent filed a complaint with the school district, citing the “cursing and sexual references” in the novel as unsuitable for the age group. The novel was part of a module on ‘Cultures and Subcultures’, and was the only book in the curriculum which featured a Native American protagonist.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has faced several censorship attempts since its publication in 2007, and holds a regular position on the American Library Association’s annual Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books list. The book is most frequently challenged for “racism” and one passing reference to teenage masturbation.
A public meeting of the Meridian School Board took place on April 1st to discuss the challenges raised against Alexie’s novel and its place on the school’s supplemental curriculum. Over 100 citizens were in attendance, most of whom spoke against teaching the book in Meridian School classrooms. The meeting sparked outrage online after public library director Gretchen Caserotti tweeted the proceedings. According to Caserotti, only half the public attendants claimed to have actually read the book.
Several other Meridian residents, including librarians, parents and students who attended the meeting, took to twitter to speak in protest of the ban. “This is setting up a divisiveness in our community, that I never anticipated,” said Meridian resident Laurynda Williams.
“Good work, Meridian School Board. Now EVERY kid is going to want to get their hands on Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary,” said high school librarian Gregory Taylor.
During the meeting, Caserotti reported shouting and disruptive behaviour from the angry crowd. After several failed attempts to come to an agreement regarding whether or not to remove Alexie’s novel from the syllabus entirely, the committee ruled to prohibit teachers from using the book in classrooms while a reconsideration process takes place.
But Sherman isn’t worried that this ban will keep teenagers in Idaho from reading his book.
“Thank you, book banners, for making my YA novel so popular,” said Sherman via twitter.
On April 16th, two women announced the success of a private fundraiser, where they raised $3000 and partnered with a local bookstore in Boise to fund a copy The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for every student who signed the petition to save the book. They aim to have copies ready to distribute by April 23rd, World Book Night.
For more, visit the Idaho Statesman and SeattlePi.