Hey There, Bookworms!
It’s still Banned Books Week, and I’m still celebrating Diversiverse. Today’s book has popped up on the list of Top Ten Banned Books over and over again in recent years, so OF COURSE I had to find out what all the fuss was about. I picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and started reading.
Frankly, I’m having a heck of a time figuring out why everyone is so worked up about this book. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the semi-autobiographical tale of Sherman Alexie’s first year in an all white high school. The main character, Arnold “Junior” Spirit, is a brilliant kid living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Confronted with the daily frustrations of life and the limited opportunities on the reservation (and, well, an incident involving the violent flinging of a textbook) Arnold decides to leave the high school on the reservation to attend the school of a nearby farming community. I’m going to list some objections from book banners and challengers, then discuss why I think they’re wrong. Cool?
Objection the Second: Arnold has a penchant for, uh, self pleasure. But dude. He’s a 14 year old boy. That’s a pretty universal 14 year old boy experience. Virtually all the sexual encounters in this book (aside from a few fairly chaste kisses) are done solo. No underage sex. No teen pregnancy. No STDs.
Objection the Third: This book deals with racism, head on. Pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Getting inside the head of someone different than you might make a difference though.
Objection the Fourth: There’s also quite a lot of discussion of the rampant alcoholism that plagues the reservation. I don’t think anybody is really thrilled to think their kids might take up drinking at a tender age, but this book makes one of the strongest anti-alcohol cases I’ve ever read. If anything, I think it would prevent kids from touching the stuff.
In short, SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS?! Don’t ban this book. It’s a fantastic coming-of-age story. It is tragic and heartbreaking and wonderful and difficult- just like being a teenager. It’s also got some killer illustrations which offers a little extra something to the reluctant reader crowd. Everybody likes a cartoon, I tell you! Although, maybe y’all should keep banning it. Nothing will get teenagers to read something faster than hearing adults tell them they can’t! Here’s a bio of the mastermind behind the controversy:
Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date. Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman’s best known works include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Let’s chat, Bookworms. You remember being a teenager, surely? Was there any activity made more appealing to you by the fact that your parents or other authority figures didn’t want you to do it? I’m curious, really, because I was really rather dull and my parents didn’t make any attempts to restrict my reading material…
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