Sherman Alexie announced on Twitter last week, “ I am the proud author of the most banned/challenged book of 2014.” He was referring to his YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian which topped the American Library Associations’s List of Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2014.
Parents who complain about the book call out instances of profane language, explicit sex, drugs, alcohol, and smoking and suggest the book is inappropriate for the age of the students reading it.
But NCTE is proud to defend this book for many reasons, including those Alexie cites in his Wall Street Journal op-ed “Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood”:
“Teenagers read millions of books every year. They read for entertainment and for education. They read because of school assignments and pop culture fads.
“And there are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them.
“As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics … I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.
“And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters.”
It is for these reasons that NCTE proudly defends The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian each and every time it is challenged, as it has been recently in Waterloo, Iowa.