December 12, 2008

School censors Absolutely True Diary

Oregon high school pulls Sherman Alexie book from classA parent's complaint prompted the Crook County School District to pull a book that had been assigned to a high school English class.

Hank Moss, a Prineville father of three, said he was appalled when he perused "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." Written by Sherman Alexie, the semi-autobiographical story of a boy who leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white high school. It won the 2007 National Book Award for young people's literature.

"I didn't feel the book was appropriate for a required reading assignment for a 14-year-old," Moss said. "It had a lot of references that I didn't feel comfortable with."

The protagonist, for example, discusses masturbation.
School yanks book from class after complaintAlexie said his book is indicative of reality.

“Everything in the book is what every kid in that school is dealing with on a daily basis, whether it’s masturbation or racism or sexism or the complications of being human,” he said. “To pretend that kids aren’t dealing with this on an hour-by-hour basis is a form of denial.”

The high school English teacher who assigned the book didn’t return calls for comment.

“The world is an incredibly complicated place, and our literature must match that, especially literature for our kids,” Alexie said. “The book is incredibly positive about the world we live in, and people from vastly different politics and groups end up being friends. … If they read the book, it’s a celebration of the values of what they (parents who oppose the book) hold dear.”
Comment:  The books on the "10 most challenged books of 2007" list include The Golden Compass, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Color Purple, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Next on the list:  Romeo and Juliet because it promotes teen suicide.

For more on the subject, see All About Sherman Alexie.


modest-goddess said...

Because 14 year old boys haven't discovered masturbation? RIGHT

I'd be interested to know what percentage of challenged books involve nonwhite characters. I'm a librarian so I might get back to you on this.

dmarks said...

You can find a list here

Anonymous said...

dmarks - I checked out that list and it is indeed almost precisely what I expected it to be.