Friday, September 27, 2013

Sherman Alexie's "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"

Madame L went to her local library the other day where she found a book of poems and essays by novelist Sherman Alexie. It was in the middle of the Poetry section, which surprised Madame L and the librarian who checked the book out for Madame L.

"I didn't know he wrote poetry," said the librarian.

"Me, neither," said the always correct, coherent, and articulate Madame L.

"Did you know that Sherman Alexie's book Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian made the Top Ten of banned books in the U.S.?" the librarian asked Madame L.

"I did not know that," Madame L replied. "Why would anyone ban that book?"

"It's supposedly racist," the librarian said.

Madame L decided to see why this book has been banned. Madame L has not had time to make an exhaustive search, but one of the first hits she got on Google was about the Richland Schools' ban (in Sherman Alexie's home state of Washington). It turns out that in this case the book was banned out of ignorance.  One of the board members who banned the book and later read it said it was "outstanding." He added that in the future he and another member "will read every book they are to vote on," according to American Libraries Magazine.

Since all the controversy, anyone who wants to check this book out of the Richland Library has to wait, because all 10 copies are on hold.

So, Madame L thinks, there are TWO lessons here for the book-censoring bodies of American libraries and schools: Not only should you read the books you're passing judgment on, but you should recognize that just by banning a book you make it all the more attractive to people who then want to know what the fuss is all about. And that's good for the author, the publishers, and the people who read the book and whose minds are enlarged by the experience.

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