The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is currently #1 on the list of most banned or challenged books in the United States.
Pulled from a school district in Idaho because it “discusses masturbation, contains profanity, and has been viewed as anti-Christian.” (www.ala.org)
It has been challenged in Wilmington, NC because “the book contains numerous depictions of sexual behavior, as well as instances of racism, vulgar language, bullying, and violence.” (www.ala.org).
Let’s take a look at the Goodreads Synopsis for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
Wait— hold up a second.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is based on Sherman Alexie’s own experiences. Meaning that there are many kids today that are going through similar experiences, and this book could help them to see that they are not alone. To ban this book means to silence their voices and their experiences, something that history has done to the voices of too many Native Americans and other people of color.
There is sexual content in this book?!? That’s not appropriate!!! (not me saying this by the way)
Let’s think about it this way. This book is about a teenage boy. He’s in high school. If you don’t think that teenagers think about sex, you’re wrong. Even those who aren’t sexually active at least think about it.
But vulgar language, racism and bullying are bad.
Yes, bullying and racism are bad. In this book, we see these topics through the eyes of Junior, the person who is bullied for being different. He is made fun of for the way he looks, for how he talks, and for being a Native American. Through him, the reader sees the way Native Americans are treated by our society. While bullying and racism are terrible things, seeing them through Junior’s eyes shows how children and adults are effected by these things.
And to be honest, the vulgar language used in this book is the same language you’d hear in the halls of any high school, any bus, any public place.
Watch Sherman Alexie brilliantly read an excerpt from this book where (gasp) an example of this “vulgar language” is used– come on folks, if you’re mad about the word “boner” than you’re missing the entire point of the book.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian needs to be in our schools. Students need to have exposure to it. It shows a very realistic portrayal of the lives of people that live in our own country, people that we turn a blind eye to far too often. This book brings to light the injustices faced by Native Americans and other marginalized and oppressed groups in America.
It’s heartbreaking, it’s hilarious, and it’s brilliant. This book has a place in schools. It can speak to children and adults in ways that no other books can. And if for no other reason, that is why it’s needed by children.