MERIDIAN, Idaho — A school board in Idaho has voted to pull a controversial novel from its 10th grade curriculum after parents complained about its profane and vulgar language and anti-Christian sentiments.
The Meridian School Board voted 2-1 this past week to remove The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from the supplemental reading list. The novel, written by Sherman Alexie, centers on the life of a young American Indian boy who leaves his school on an Indian reservation and begins attending an all-white school. It won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
However, in addition to using racial epithets and profanity, the book also reportedly contains a reference to masturbation, a depiction of Jesus Christ passing gas, and uses language that degrades women and the disabled. Therefore, while The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an award-winning book, it is also one of the most controversial across the nation.
Prior to the vote last week, numerous area residents spoke during the public comment period about their concerns regarding the novel. Two hours of testimony passed with most parents asking the board to boot the book from the curriculum, while others defended the publication as being reflective of teen life.
“Teen fiction is often a reflection and extension of adolescents’ realities,” Gretchen Caserotti, the director of public libraries, stated, according to Reuters. “We believe books are a powerful and safe place for kids to see outside themselves and explore a world that is increasingly diverse and complex.”
“It is the very idea that our education is being censored,” student Brady Kissel said, who came to the board meeting with a 350-signature petition to keep the book.
But parent Bonnie Stiles said that she had counted 133 instances of profanity or other inappropriate material throughout the 200 page book, and said that the book should not be placed in the hands of children.
“There’s obscene material throughout, degrading slang words like the one used to describe a certain part of a woman’s anatomy and an offensive depiction of [Jesus Christ],” she lamented.
Sharon Blair, who originally contacted the district to express concern about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, referred to the book as being “explicit, filthy [and] racist.”
“It is not the teacher’s responsibility to feel that they are in control of our children,” she told those gathered during the district meeting. “These children came from our wombs. You have them as teachers for a small part of the day; we have them for a lifetime. And I do not want our children exposed to explicit, filthy, racist things. Please do the courageous thing and remove this book from the curriculum.”
The Meridian School Board states that it is now looking for a replacement to the novel for the supplemental reading list, but also notes that the book has not been completely banned as it will remain available to students in school libraries.