So, 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?
As it is the weekend, and I’m not planning on coming in contact with many of my beloved “turds” (as in, “oh, boy, that sounds like a real turd”) I think I’ll give you some idea of where I’m coming from with these books.
So let’s say I’m cataloging and I come across a book with an annotation like this:
Richardson [always with the author’s last name], a gay marathon runner, describes her journey to northern Africa to identify the origins of her inheritance–a set of silver drinking cups given to her by her mother on her deathbed. The mysterious Arabic symbols on the the cups puzzled the author and pushed her to the journey that would change her life and lead her to her current fascination with snowboarding.
So, each on their own, these ideas could be interesting. Lesbians, long distance runners, antique collecting, travel, snowboarding…all relevant individually. But, mashed all together in one book just creates a big old messy turd squashed between two pieces of cardboard–AKA–a book.
You think I’m joking, Gentle Reader, but I assure you that I. Am. Not. I run into crap like this on a regular basis. And this is just an only semi-exaggerated example of a biography. Just wait until I start posting some of the Sci-fi/fantasy turds that come my way.
For me, I think I get riled up about these book turds because by the time they get to me, they were double vetted–first by the original publisher, and then by the collection development team at the NLS. I’m left thinking…really?
*Note: the collection development team at the NLS is a group of really fantastic people. I’ve met them all personally and they are super cool; when I criticize these books that they choose for audio I am NOT criticizing them.
Book subject matter comes in all shapes and sizes. As a librarian, I would be really remiss if I didn’t point out that not all subject matter is interesting to everyone all the time. My opinion is just that…my opinion. If you disagree with a book-turd that I highlight here…please speak up!
Hi there everyone. Although, there really isn’t anyone here yet since I just revived this old dusty WordPress blog. This blog is a very long time coming and that is why I just know you’re going to be glad I’m finally here.
About me: I am a librarian. As a librarian I split my time between traveling all over the state talking about library stuff and sitting pretty station-arily (yes, I make up words to suit my needs) at my desk cataloging books.
About me cataloging: I just came off of a 14 month marathon in which I cataloged about 20,000 “retrospective” titles from our old format collection.
About formats: I forgot to tell you that I’m a librarian for a regional LBPH library. That’s a Library for the Blind of Physically Handicapped for those not “in the biz.” When I say format, what I mean is that first our books were on reel to reel tapes (I could be making that up), then record albums, then flexible discs, then 4-track cassettes, and now they are on flash drive.
Again with the cataloging: While cataloging those 20,000 retro titles I ran into some real dogs. Titles that made me say, “who the eff thought this was a good idea?”
Birth of a blog: this blog will be a chance for me to share with you some of those titles that just make me wonder…Who’s [actually] Reading This?