So, the way I decided to do this is not like an assignment or anything. Reading is supposed to be fun. At the end of the month I will just post some questions that you can think about and apply to the book you just read.
I do want to say that I really enjoyed The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. There is a movie adaptation of one of his books, Smoke Signals, that I saw several years ago and quite liked. I also found myself a bit puzzled as to why the book was challenged. According to the ALA (American Library Association) the book is frequently challenged:
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
As the book is semi-autobiographical I find this odd on several levels. The “depiction of bullying” is harsh, yes, but it is also something a lot of kids can relate to. In school you are frequently the bullied, the bully-er, the one who ignores the bullying or the one who tries to stop it. Most kids will move through at least two of these phases throughout their school years. The hero of our book is the bullied. To discount a person’s story as “unsuited for age group” not only dismisses the author, but also dismisses the redemption of the story.
The claims of cultural insensitivity and anti-family are statements about the narrator’s adjustment to his life off reservation and how they compare to his life on res. He talks about how Indians have been treated in the past and he also talks about how Indian’s see white people. I thought it was very appropriate. To distance yourself from this story because of those reasons is a bit ludicrous. If you don’t let your children read and experience injustice, how will they learn to fight it and how will they learn what it is like to be “other”? How will they learn to be compassionate?
The anti-family bit is just straight out ridiculous. The narrator has a wonderfully supportive family. Their existence is harsh and there is definitely a lot of grave reality that he has to deal with but at the core, his family cares for him as best they can. His best friend, however, lives in an abusive home. Some kids do, you know. Just because a character lives in an “anti-family” household doesn’t mean that the book is anti-family. If I recall, the same statement was said about the Harry Potter books.
I believe one of the reasons a lot of people don’t read is because what they were assigned as children was woefully lacking in self-identification. It’s hard to get excited about reading if every book tells the story of happy, well-adjusted children who go on to do great things. If you’re a kid who is living in foster care because your mother is a drug-addict and you have changed schools 4 times in a year is reading about some girl who finds out she’s a princess going to be something you really relate to? Not to exclude the great escapism that is reading, but sometimes you just want a little proof that you exist; that you are seen. And if you’re black or Indian or Chinese or Hawaiian or Welsh or Greek – whatever – you can grow weary of reading about white Americans all the time. Books help us explore other cultures. We can see what is different and what is the same about us. Books help us grow.
Ugh. I totally didn’t want to get on my soapbox now. This is what happens when you’re passionate about something – you want to share it with others. Like, in a big way. Sorry. You’ll get used to it. 🙂
Anyway, please check back on the 30th for a list of the questions for both books. I hope you enjoyed the read!