Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Black Eye of the Month Club

You would think book banning was a thing of the past, but unfortunately there are an alarming number of books that are "challenged" each year.  The latest is Sherman Alexie's book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  Apparently, Alexie had the temerity to reference sex and masturbation in a book that chronicles the life of a 14-year old native American growing up on the Spokane reservation in eastern Washington and his subsequent transfer to a public school where he is the only Indian other than the mascot.  Alexie is a wonderful comic, as witnessed in his book Smoke Signals, which was made into a movie in 1998.  But, it seems kids in Meridian Idaho school district will no longer have easy access to this particular book.

Students tried to appeal the decision by presenting a petition with 350 signatures but the school board voted 2-1 to hold up the decision after numerous parental complaints.  The book has since been in great demand in Meridian, undercutting the school board's attempt to banish it.  Downloads are pretty easy to get, which is probably a bit of a downer for Alexie, although I imagine he has done well off the book since its release in 2007.  Hopefully, this incident will call attention to his other works.

It's funny to see books like Brave New World and To Kill a Mockingbird still being challenged today.  You really have to wonder how myopic these school boards are, especially in a time when it is so easy to gain access to pretty much anything on the Internet.  It is like they still think they can screen kids from the perils of this world when books like Alexie's semi-autobiography probably do more to help kids make sense of their lives, much like Catcher in the Rye did for troubled teens since it was first published in 1951.  The title is still banned in many school libraries around the country.

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