Anti-Christian Charges Prompt Review of Part-Time Indian

Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 19:58
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was yanked from the library shelves and required reading list of the Dade County (Ga.) High School because of complaints from parents about what they deemed vulgarity, racism, and anti-Christian content.

Students had been required to read Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel about a teen growing up on an Indian reservation, but the numerous complaints prompted Superintendent Shawn Tobin to remove the book until it could be reviewed by a media center committee, the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press reported November 13.

“Some people thought it was the greatest book ever, and some people thought it was the most perverted book ever,” noted Tobin. He said most of the complaints centered on profanity, as well as a depiction of Jesus Christ breaking wind.

“It was just disgusting,” Trenton resident Mechele Berry said in the November 9 Dade County Sentinel about the book’s content. “You know, perversion.” Berry told the Sentinel she  immediately called high-school principal Josh Ingle to voice her concern, but “apparently I wasn’t the only parent, because by the time that I had gotten to Mr. Ingle, they had already pulled it.”

The National Book Award–winning novel ranked second on the American Library Association’s list of the 10 most frequently challenged books of 2010.

When the book was banned in Stockton, Missouri, in 2010, Pat Scales, chair of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, told the Cedar County (Mo.) Republican the book was “fabulous” because it offers a window into the tough life on the reservation.

“Yes, it’s raw in places, but it’s raw because the life was. We have our heads in the sand if we don’t realize there are people who have to live this way,” Scales said. “Every book we read is not going to reflect our own value systems.”

In a November 20 editorial, the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune observed that, “largely cut off from the rest of Georgia by Lookout Mountain, Dade has always been something of a land apart, which can be both one of its charms . . . and handicaps.”

“Yet on this side of Lookout Mountain,” the editorial continued, “some might recall, about three years ago the very same Alexie book was the community selection for the One Book Many Voices reading initiative in Greater Rome. Youngsters were encouraged to read it, write essays about it, discuss it; the award-winning author visited and signed copies plus spoke at Pepperell High. That’s both evidence of progress, especially in somewhat cosmopolitan Rome, and the continuing need for more progress in some insular locations cut off from reality.”