A Familiar Story–Sherman Alexie's Book Banned Again!

I have to say, that reporting on these banned books stories is discouraging. Especially when I thought this particular problem was put to bed, as it were. But no. A school board decided to not allow the use of  “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” in ANY grade level. The original contention was the 9th grade, but one member decided the language and sexual situations were not appropriate, period. Doesn’t matter that not ONE person on the board actually READ the book! That they admit to this omission is astonishing. Do these self appointed judges realize that not only are their community interested in their decisions but the entire country? In this world of instantness,  quotes and admissions of ignorance are out there for all to see, and judge, just as the board members judged the book. 

The answer to this is even more depressing. They don’t care. And after all, why should they? They are elected by people who agree with their limited mindset. Outsiders don’t vote, pay their salaries. 

I suppose I might cut them a little slack if they read the book and had articulated their problems with the story, language, sexual abuse, why it wouldn’t be a helpful, learning experience for high schoolers. But they can’t even bother to crack open the volume, they go by other narrow minded ‘protective’ people who have decried the book as foul. Not all of the board members voted against the book, I should make that clear. But why is there not a bigger outcry by the members who  believe the book should be taught? What is everyone so damn afraid of anyway?

Parents, even if just a lone gunman of a parent. We’ve seen what one parent can do to a school’s curriculum in New Hampshire–raise a ruckus, boom–books removed. The parent gets on the news, doesn’t matter if the person is a radical Christian whose agenda is suspect. The school would rather capitulate than fight a battle that they think may cause more negative publicity than the parent already has. So, now in Richmand OR, it seems the school board is taking steps to hold off what they believe will be parent protests. But would there be? How can they know, especially if they’ve not read the book?

And even if there are, what is an education about anyway? New ideas? Learning about other cultures, other situations than a suburban life style? Apparently not. It’s to keep within a very narrow world view, the one already in sight and if that view were to stray to the more ‘unpleasant’ pictures, their darling delicate children may melt from reflected glare of  ‘filthy’ language and the realities that some of those children are already facing. Let’s get real. Sexual abuse has no economic standard. Incest, parental abuse, extended family abuse, neighbors, track coaches, priests, etc etc etc are from all areas of town. It’s just the whiter, richer, suburban area are pretty good at covering up this shameful fact. 

The woman who changed the criteria from eliminating the book from 9th grade classes, to all grades said this:

“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?”

Literature used in schools ought to teach high values and character, Strickler said. “I don’t see the appropriateness of gratuitous language and descriptions of sex,” she said.

I had written a fairly scathing response to her idiotic remarks, but wordpress saw fit to erase them! LOL. Probably for the best. All the arguments against this kind of thought have been raised again and again. But so long as there are people in our country who see fit to embarrass the rest of the US with their small mindedness, in front of the world, we who know better have to call them out and make the argument again and again–otherwise, the small souls may eventually make wee people of us all.

Thanks to Banned Books Week for the link:


8 thoughts on “A Familiar Story–Sherman Alexie's Book Banned Again!”

  1. I get that you disagree with the decision about the book. What I don’t get is why you have to insult everyone involved (or, at least everyone who doesn’t share your viewpoint).
    You said it yourself. Outsiders don’t vote for them or pay their salaries. they are accountable to the ones who do. If the people of that community disapprove of their decision, they should let it be known. If they approve, then the board is doing their job. Regardless of what you think of “radical Christians” or any other group, that doesn’t make them idiots. Your worldview is not necessarily more valid than theirs.
    Hurling insults will not win anyone over to your point if view.

    • Glenda. I don’t believe I insulted everyone within my article. I’m not sure that anyone within my blog post shared my point of view.

      Banning books is everyone’s business. Whether we can alter a small world view by voicing how ridiculous it is to dismiss a title without bothering to read it, then good. Unlikely. But necessary. From the news report, the community had nothing to say about the book, it came down to one individual, whom I stand by saying is ignorant and if you like, an idiot, to decide to eliminate a title simply because she’s ‘heard’ it has bad language, and really, ‘aren’t books to build character?’ The board isn’t working if they allow one member to push them into a decision without investigating the entire subject–you know, do their job–the one elected to do, which is study and discuss a subject before a decision–don’t throw out something willy nilly based on nothing more than hearsay and may I say, hysteria?
      Hysteria in the sense, “oh heavens, bad words, sexual content, what will our constituents say if they hear we allowed this to be taught??”

      A radical Christian was involved in the New Hampshire case, not here. The very term ‘radical’ says something, doesn’t it? Or do you like groups of people who are so far right, or left, they aren’t grounded in reality anymore? What I think of radical Christians is the same as I think of radical atheists, or radical anything–yes, they are idiots. Not because they don’t share a world view, but their view is so skewed and selfish, it ceases to be a view at all, more of an agenda, and I will not tolerate people with a very narrow agenda. Right, or left, doesn’t matter, one individual should not control a school system. Period.

      Again, insults were not made, only the truth, and really, do you think I wrote this to win over and make friends of people who stand for censorship and stupidity? I learned long ago, that trying to influence the rigid thinking of anyone, is a waste of time. The censorship and banning of books needs to be exposed to the greater population, who may not have such rigid thinking, or at least a slightly more open mind.

      Perhaps it will actually encourage individuals to READ a book, before condemning it!

  2. I never had any particular interest in Sherman Alexie’s works before, but now that I’ve seen this book banned more than once, I think I’m going to read it. And probably all his other books, too.

    • Years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Alexie during a drop in signing at a bookstore I was managing. He so impressed me, that I traded a major collectible title at the time, for his first book signed–from a book dealer I knew. He sold my book for around a 100 bucks–4 times the original cost–but I had a book I knew I would cherish.

      (full disclosure–the collectible was a second copy, lol, but still . . .)

  3. There is an upside to banning books! Librarians will tell you that if your school bans a book the kids will go to the library to get it. Book banning is like free publicity and promotion. Frequently there are follow up news stories with the pros and cons of the book being discussed.

    Many people feel that Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ isn’t that great a book, but with all the churches weighing in about how terrible it was, it sold much better than it would have on its own merits and spawned several follow up books as well.

    I seem to recall that some books or movies used to be released in Boston first with the hope that they would be banned there, and then the advertising or book cover would say in large letters ‘Banned in Boston’.

    Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’ deals in part with turning this sort of thing back on the perpetrators.

    How many of us would never have heard of this book if it hadn’t been banned?

  4. Bob, you’re absolutely right–many films have been protested against and done better box office because of it. And books. But the greater question is–when will the people who are not educators, who have not read the books in question, who haven’t studied school curriculum, keep their paws out of the selection of books? I can’t remember a single time a parent had problems with high school reading when I was in school–and believe me, there were some interesting books out at that time. It wasn’t done–parents allowed professionals to do their jobs–now parents and school board members think they understand that job, and should emphatically force whatever agenda they have upon the teachers.
    All of a sudden in this country, teachers have become the enemy. governors are pinning a target on them and shooting down assistance all over the country–and they’re being lauded for it! In New Jersey, the governor is considered a great candidate for the presidency! All because he slashed schools budgets. (among other smash and burn tactics)

    I just glimpsed a few minutes of the film–i think it’s called Pleasantville? where everything is in black and white, and the lead character is introducing the teenagers to the LIBRARY! And they start turning into vibrant colors. The older men of the town are sitting on the sidelines complaining and saying it had to be stopped.

    That’s what all these banned books feel to me–as if people are stuck in a world they wish they had, but do not, and any reflection of the real world, warts and all, must be shot down.

    Hopefully, the libraries and bookstores will be selling many more copies of Alexie’s books–and I’d love to know if you come across data regarding sales of banned books.

  5. None of them read the book???
    I am speechless! I’d be home-schooling if I had kids in this sort of school system.

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