The Absolutely True Story of Letting My Son Read Banned Books

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I’ll be honest: I had already pegged Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as a potential read for my 12-year-old. Hearing that there are school districts considering banning it only makes me MORE likely to recommend it to him.

A bit of reflexive rebellion on my part? Perhaps. But there seems to be a pretty well established trend that the books parents try to get banned are the best ones. The most important reads. The ones that really SAY something. Something uncomfortable perhaps – but in my humble opinion, that’s precisely WHY they’re important reads.

Adolescent sexuality. Racism. Slavery. Evil atrocities (I’m looking at YOU, Hitler, and the moms who tried to ban Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl). Profane language. Drugs. These are things that to make a lot of parents uncomfortable. But these are all things that our children are going to be exposed to, and probably earlier than we’d like if we had our way. Isn’t it best to prime them? Isn’t it best to let them first experience these complicated subjects through the relative safety of a book?

I think so. I also understand age-appropriateness. But, I tend to think our kids are capable of understanding and handling far more than we give them credit for.

The complaints I’ve heard about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian center around profanity, specifically the author’s use of “the f-word” <gasp!> and talk of masturbation <gasp!>. Honestly, I find neither of these issues particularly concerning. I don’t know about your 12-year-old, but mine is well acquainted with four-letter words. And masturbation? Hardly a startling topic, in my opinion. But let’s not lose sight of the other topics covered. Native American life on the reservation. Disabilities. Poverty. Bullying. And, yes, adolescent sexuality (which I  happen to believe is a useful and healthy topic of discussion for a tween-ager). All written by a premier Native American author who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and just happens to currently live in my lovely city? How is that not worth a few masturbatory scenes and some f-bombs?

Of course, I’m saying all this having not actually read the book myself. Still, I have every intention of recommending it to my son and the news of potential bannings only reinforces my feelings.

I’ll report back if he ends up reading it (and will mostly likely borrow his copy and read it myself as well). In the meantime, have any of you read it? Would you recommend it to your children?

This post’s song: Indian Lover by Jude

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One Response to “The Absolutely True Story of Letting My Son Read Banned Books”

  1. Aimee March 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    My daughter read this in 7th grade and I was required to sign a form giving my consent so that she could. I read it myself and found it perfectly appropriate for the middle school set.

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