Home > Fiction, Personal Philosophy, Young Adult Reading Level > Absolutely Too True for School

Absolutely Too True for School

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time IndianSo, today I feel the urge to write about a book that I consider a non-turd.  The book is the Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  The book parallels a part of Alexie’s own life story in which a young Spokane Indian leaves the “rez” school to attend high school at a “white” high school 20 miles away–and off the rez.  Arnold Spirit faces discrimination from the kids at the new school, discrimination from his neighbors that he leaves behind every day, extreme poverty, and alot of sadness.  But-hey-this is just normal stuff for a kid from the rez.

Anyway, of course the book has been challenged, like, everywhere.  It has profanity, sexual content, and some overall anti-social behavior.  In other words, it’s a peek into what it’s really like to live on and leave the reservation.  I’m posting today because the most recent school district to “challenge” [read: banned] this book is the Richland Washington School District in Eastern Washington.  At one point in my life my home address was Richland WA 99352, and I’ve actually met Sherman Alexie and think he’s a totally rad dude.  Additionally, Richland sits, literally, right between the Spokane Reservation and the Yakama Reservations–and two or three others, but I’m showing my own ignorance here.

At the bottom of this post I’ve included a link to the Tri-City Herald’s news story about the banning of the book.  I had several, “oh REALLY” moments while reading this article, but as a former English major, this one is my favorite:

“I get the feeling that language arts is an opportunity to talk about these issues and problems that are rampant in our society,” said board member Phyllis Strickler. “But is that really (its) purpose?”

I guess the kids of Richland WA will just have to wait to discuss literature as it relates to real life when they get to college–assuming their moms and dads approve.

In addition to wagging my finger at the Richland School Board, I’m “for shaming” the parents of Richland WA 9th graders.  Apparently, the English teacher who taught the book last year sent a letter about the book to parents and encouraged them to read the book and send in reviews to the School Board.  Of his entire 9th grade set of students, one parent read the book.  Of course, he or she gave it a thumbs-down.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK.  It is not a thumbs-down and it is not, what Wall Street Journal Reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon lists as an example in her list of YA books that are “…hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.”  Oh, really?

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  1. Angela
    June 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Okay, popping in here because you so kindly requested some traffic! I have not read, or even heard of, this book. Your review makes it sound quite intriguing. Besides the aberrant shortcomings of the Richland School Board and the parents of Richland’s 9th grade population in this particular situation, I am appalled at Gurdon’s comment that this book is a distorted view of an adolescent’s rite of passage through the teenage years. Oh, really, indeed! Because the Twilight series is?

  2. EHB
    June 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I know, right? I would like to see the rest of her list of YA books and see what she has to say about them. I never understand how adults don’t “get” YA books and their usefulness to the teens finding their way through adolescence. Nevermind the fact that if, after reading this book, she said what she said about it then she really has NO idea what it’s like to grow up on an Indian reservation.

    That’s what is so heartbreaking about Arnold Spirit’s story; it’s so true it hurts. I like the idea that teens in the NW could read it and get some perspective about, a) their own teen troubles, and b) what it might be like for kids growing up less than 50 miles away from them.

    Sherman Alexie has this way of just ripping out your heart in one sentence and then making you laugh so hard you cry again in the next sentence.

    Must Read Reads from Alexie: Reservation Blues, Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, and Flight

  3. Chris Quinn-Wriedt
    June 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    If you like diary-type books that are risque you should try any of them by Augusten Burroughs. Fantastic memoirist.

  4. EHB
    June 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Loved Running with Scissors!

  5. Chris Quinn-Wriedt
    June 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    You should definitely read his others. A Wolf at the Table is my absolute favorite!

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