The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Banned Books)

banned books

Every month for the rest of 2014 ChrissiReads, Bibliobeth & I (aka Luna’s Little Library) will be reading a Banned or Challenged Book.

We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged. How/If things have changed since the book was originally published. What we actually think of the book.

If you’d like to joining in there is a list of the books we’ll be reading at the bottom of this post.

Previous Banned Book Discussion: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

First published: 1st January 2007
Still in the Top Ten of Frequently Challenged Books in 2013 (source)
Chosen by: Bibliobeth
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

About the book: Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.


Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: I didn’t think this book had as many strong reasons for being banned as the other two books, but there are always going to be some topics that people want to steer clear of. I was thinking about this while reading the book and if I was a teacher I would definitely like to teach this book in class. I wouldn’t mind so much the swearing or the racism, because I think it has important messages. And then we come to the masturbation bit… oh dear… I think if I had to deal with this in a classroom I’m not so certain I could be adult enough myself to deal with it without becoming a tittering mess. But that’s just me!

CHRISSI: I don’t think this book is as controversial as the previous books that we’ve read. Of course, there are elements of it that are quite controversial considering that it is young people we are thinking about. Yet, I don’t think we should necessarily shy away from these books. They have their place, we just need to use them sensitively. I know for a teacher it must be hard to approach these subjects. Especially in this book’s case, racism.

LUNA: For a change I’m not going to get on my soapbox, I’ve already done that in the last two banned book discussions (HERE and HERE) and I’m just repeating myself.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian contains swearing, Arnold talks about masturbation; there is alcoholism, violence, death and racism. It’s a tough book and it doesn’t sugar-coat or shy away from that. My personal opinion is that this is a good thing. Books are an excellent way for people to get talking about these subjects.
I do appreciate that taken out of context certain pages of this book might make parents/guardians balk at the text but why not read the whole book and then about think about why it makes them uncomfortable? Given peers, TV and internet how likely is it that this content is going to be new/shocking?

How about now?
BETH: This book is still fairly recent (published 2007), so I don’t think the world has changed that much since then. I would love to see this book taught in schools, but I know that I personally couldn’t do it.

CHRISSI: I can understand why it’s tough to teach it, but I don’t agree with it being banned. Once again, as I’ve mentioned in previous discussions…it’ll take a strong teacher to attempt to teach this book, but I hope that there are some out there.

LUNA: See my previous answer and sorry but I am going to repeat my favourite sentence: Don’t underestimate teenagers!

What did you think of the book?
BETH: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, I loved Junior as a character and I think the things that he has to deal with – racism, violence, alcoholism, death in the family, bullying… I could go on and on, are important issues to highlight to teenagers, a lot of whom might be going through the exact same thing and might bring them some sort of comfort whilst providing a laugh or two. I also really enjoyed the way the cartoons were used throughout the book to illustrate what Junior was feeling.

CHRISSI: I liked it! It was quick and easy to read and very memorable!

LUNA: I really liked The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Junior is an excellent narrator and the illustrations are great. For a relatively short book it really packs a punch. There are a lot of moments that stayed with me long after I finished reading; the class walk-out, Junior’s sister, the conversation Junior has with his teacher at the beginning – just to name a few.

Would you recommend it?
BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

LUNA: Absolutely

Banned Book Reading List for 2014

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as “Anonymous”)
Chosen by: Chrissi

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Chosen by: Luna

Lush by Natasha Friend
Chosen by: Beth

Next book:
Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks


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