With teens and adults everywhere flocking to his books and devouring them (not to mention the movie adaptations of The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns), John Green has risen to super-stardom in the literary world.
Did you know that the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling were the #1 banned or challenged books from 2000-2009?
Sounds absolutely asinine, doesn’t it? The mere thought of banning or challenging a series that has inspired so many people to read and write makes me angry. But there were some schools and districts that thought Harry Potter had no business being read by students.
The series has also been called inappropriate for children because of the fantasy violence and complex themes. It’s been called to scary and adult for child readers.
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.
Find Sherman Alexie Online:
This week, Sept 27 – October 3 is Banned Books Week 2015.
This week on Amanda’s Nose in a Book we will be celebrating our right to read during Banned Books Week. I for one was always the child who became more curious about a book as soon as I found out it was challenged or banned. I sought out those books and devoured them, often loving them and recommending them to my friends.
It might surprise you, as it does me every single year that books written for Young Adults continue to be censored and banned or challenged by adults who believe that they are not appropriate for children.
Yes. This is still happening. In 2015.
Mind blown, right? Shouldn’t we be past this?
Books are banned for many reasons, but most are banned due to the subject material being seen as inappropriate for children or teenagers by other adults. See reasons why books are banned here and here.
That brings us to the question: what is appropriate or inappropriate for students to read?
Answer, it depends on the child. Some kids might be able to handle certain topics or subjects better than others. Most books that are published today have an age group in mind and while they talk about difficult subjects, they are done so with the experiences many children face every day in mind.
Authors don’t just talk about sex, assault, racism, poverty, or other tough subjects without the age level and the maturity of the audience that will be reading that book in mind. Think about it. Kids today see and go through a lot of terrible things. Talking about these topics in books not only tell kids that they are not alone, but they help to educate kids about what their peers might be going through.
So should books be banned at all?
No. Not even the crappiest of all crappy books. Censoring books because a parent or group thinks they’re “bad” due to the content is wrong. Don’t get me wrong– if a parent doesn’t want their child to read a book, that’s fine and dandy. But trying to make it so that book isn’t accessible to a school, district, or kids in any school is B.S.
And I can almost guarantee that children will seek out the book that parents/teachers/school districts are so up in arms about. Telling a child a book/show/movie is forbidden will only make them want it more.
Learn more about Banned Books Week from the American Library Association
I have always wondered why people felt the need to ban or censor books from libraries and schools.
Books that are enriching, worthwhile, enjoyable, and that teach children and teens amazing lessons about life are banned and challenged by those who think they know better. They want to shelter children from subject matter that they deem unacceptable. In reality, children and teens face these things every day and it is these books that help them come to terms with their experiences. So many banned books are those that children read, remember, and enjoy the most.
My top 5 favorite banned books:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book changed my life and I was appalled when I discovered that it had been challenged or banned by so many schools and libraries for language and was called a “filthy, trashy novel” (ala.org). In reality, I feel that To Kill a Mockingbird is a beautiful novel that teaches acceptance and shows those who read it that doing the right thing isn’t always easy. The positive messages in this novel far outweigh any negative message that some feel it gives children.
2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
I will never have enough positive things to say about Speak. It has been banned and even called “pornography” by a gentleman who obviously didn’t read the novel. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a novel that gives hope to victims of sexual assault and bullying. In no way is this novel ever pornographic and while some people feel that the subject matter is unsuited to the age group the novel is written for, the unfortunate truth is that this is a subject faced by many teens. This book can help save lives and encourages people who have experienced sexual abuse to speak out.
3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Another favorite of mine The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been banned for “Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group” (ala.org). God forbid the words “boner” or “masturbation” are used in a book for teens. By removing books from shelves for that reason alone teaches tens that their changing bodies are dirty and something to be ashamed of. While the above stated topics are explored in the novel, it is about so much more than that as a whole. It is a touching, funny, sad account of the life of a Native American teenager. It shows what he goes through and addresses the topics of poverty and bullying among others.
4. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series has been banned for “anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence.” (ala.org). To be completely honest, I think that this is a huge crock of shit. Not once in the whole book did it encourage children to explore the occult or Satanism. While there was violence, it was the good vs. evil violence that we see in so many children’s books and movies. It is not excessive, nor is it the whole point of the series. Harry Potter teaches values about friendship, belief in your own abilites, and standing up for others (among many other things) making it a positive experience for those who read the series.
5. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
One of my childhood favorites, Harriet the Spy was “banned and challenged by many parents and teachers who felt Harriet was a poor role model for children because she exhibited delinquent tendencies.” Seriously? I highly doubt that this children’s classic is at fault for my foul mouth. Harriet is a great female protagonist who is far from perfect. What she did hurt others and in turn she was hurt as well. However, she learned from her mistakes and it helped her become a better person (character). She is likable and fun and I love that we are seeing more characters like her in today’s children’s lit and YA.