Target: Dennis M. Walcott
Goal: Reverse book ban due to fearful parents.
A New York middle school has banned an award winning book from its library shelves, preventing children from receiving guidance in much needed areas. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is being withheld on a basis of misunderstanding and judgment. The partly self-autobiographical novel contains a story of honesty, courage, and hardship that young adults can directly relate to. This heralded work is being placed on a forbidden list by parents and teachers who are out of touch with what today’s youth are facing on a daily basis.
Written in 2007 by Sherman Alexie, the book provides a comprehensive inclusion of relative themes for young people. The plot revolves around a Native American boy growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation with an alcoholic father. His journey takes him off the reservation and into an all white school with an ethnic mascot. Through his experiences he encounters and processes a number of controversial scenarios, including poverty, bullying, death, profanity, and masturbation. It was this last topic that particularly caught the attention of a small group of parents at the Public School 114 in Rockaway, Queens.
The passage in question reads, “If God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs. So I thank God for my thumbs.” Afraid that their pre-teens would discover sexuality and all things related, a handful of angry parents demanded the book be removed. Disparaged by racial and sexual themes, one parent compared the book to “50 Shades of Grey”, an explicit erotic novel. After phone calls from parents and a reported tabloid the school district caved and removed all copies from their library. In an ignorant attempt to protect their children, these parents have removed a valuable life aid. In 2011 the Richland School District in Washington made the same mistake by removing the book after parental complaints. The ruling was challenged when it was discovered that two of the board members had not read the book. After completing the reading, the two previously uninformed members immediately reversed their votes, adding that the book was “outstanding.”
This book has merited numerous awards, including the 2007 National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature, the 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the 2009 Odyssey Award as the years best audio book for children or young adults, and the 2010 California Young Reader Medal. In addition it has been honored on the Best books of 2007 list by the School Library Journal and on the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Top 10 Best Books for Young Adults.
More important than these accolades is the outreach provided to children and young adults facing these same social dilemmas and inner struggles. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian must remain in circulation across the country. Sign the petition and help provide a source of reference and encouragement to kids that are dealing with depression, sexual and physical abuse, absentee parents, and suicidal thoughts.
Dear Dennis M. Walcott, Chancellor,
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was recently removed from Public School 114 in Rockaway, Queens. This jewel among young people’s literature shines as a beacon of understanding for many pre-teen and teenage children enduring the same struggles faced by the book’s main character. By removing this book a possible lifeline to isolated children facing unspeakable inner torment is being snatched out of their drowning hands.
I implore you to stand on the dock of decision and look beyond the insecurities of complaining parents to the lake of needing faces. Rise above criticism and be the one to send out the raft of hope. Repeal the ban on Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and restore the hope it provides.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: nativeamericanencyclopedia.com