Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Book Week: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Summary: 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.

Why it was challenged: This book was on the Most Frequently Challenged Book for 2009-2010- the ALA's listing reads "Retained on the summer reading list at Antioch, Ill. High School (2009) despite objections from several parents who found its language vulgar and racist." In addition this book was banned in both a Oregon HS and a Missouri HS for reasons of it including sexual language, off-color jokes, and discussions of masturbation, racism, alcoholism and violence and being generally "pretty trashy" (links to full articles here and here)

My thoughts: A year ago this week I started this blog- the first book I reviewed was Part-time Indian. It's not the best review I've ever written (I was a newbie, what can I say?) but my opinion of the book remains the same. This is one of my all time favorite books, from one of my absolute favorite authors. I was shocked to find out that not only was it challenged, but that it had successfully been banned from 2 High Schools. The book is written from the perspective of a 14 year old boy, and Junior deals with all the things that 14 year old boys deal with along with all the added things that kids on reservations deal with. I thought the book was hysterical. I read it while in the hospital and I can tell you that the nurse came in to check on me because I was literally laughing out loud and reading passages to my husband (who was trying to sleep). I think I ended up reading almost the entire book out loud- there were that many pages that I thought were worthy! To ban the book because one person thinks it's "trashy" is a shame. There is so much to be learned from this book- from what it's like to be picked on, to be an outsider, to be a reservation kid. The fact that Alexie has the ability to relate all these really serious issues to the reader without sacrificing humor and compassion is something that makes this book so special.

I really could go on and on about this book, but the bottom line is, it's worth a read, it's a fabulous book.
To learn more about Alexie and his books, check out his website. Don't forget to enter my Banned Book Giveaway for your chance to win every book that was featured this week!


  1. I love this book! Those who would want it banned are seriously overreacting. Of all the books to choose to ban, this one? People are weird.

    A.T.D.P.T.I. (wow, that's a long title), has such a great message - determination to learn, making friends, crossing social and racial barriers, overcoming injustice... it's just great. When I read it I would just be howling with laughter at the top of the page and crying by the bottom.

  2. I hadn't heard of this book until the recently, but I must say the fact that it's been challenged makes it all the more appealing to me. The reasons the parents cite for wanting to ban it reminds me of people's protests against Mark Twain's books. Clearly, these people do not get it. Books like this use the derogatory language that REAL LIFE people use to make a point about why they SHOULDN'T - not to encourage people to continue the tradition of ignorance. It seems like the only books that get challenged are the ones that are too similar to real life for comfort. But if a book doesn't challenge your comfort zone and preconceived notions, then it's probably not doing its job.

    Thank you for supporting Banned Books Week! This will definitely be added to my TBR pile.

  3. This has been one of my favorite books to read that has been assigned in school. Not only was it entertaining, but it was also educational. Even though there were racist and sexual references in the book, they are just the realities to life. It's a shame that schools have agreed to ban this book, and I hope that kids who have had this book banned, go out and buy themselves a copy to read.