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?