IL 2246: Multicultural Literature

Class Discussion and Assignments

Week Six: Question Three

with 21 comments

This book often tops the banned books list.  Is that warranted?  Alexie responds to this in a really smart interview worth reading –


Written by skajder

February 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm

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21 Responses

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  1. No, I do not think banning this book is warranted because in the United States–we have the right to “freedom of speech”. In order for society to progress–it is important to have “open information”. Banning a book is a form of censorship. One does not have to like a book, and one can ignore a book if he or she is not happy with the book, but banning a book is a way for people to exert power over something they do not like, and these power-hungry people need to find better things to do with their time!


    February 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm

  2. I think Alexie’s novel is so controversial because of its sheer honesty. It is life, raw, painful, dirty, crude, and beautiful. Some percentage of people aren’t ready for that. It should however not be the decision of the few to control the many. If any censorship should be made, it should come from the parents. A parent has every right to object if their student can read a text, but there is nothing in Alexie’s novel that shocks the senses enough to shatter any of the sensibilities of teenagers today. I’d sooner let my (future) child read Alexie’s book twice then watch anything on MTV. Alexie’s novel is life. Why censor life?

    Shane Conrad

    February 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    • I could not agree with you more that it should be the parents decision to object to a text, not a group of “elitists” that as Alexie points out in the interview, do not even read the books most of the time.


      February 16, 2013 at 5:09 pm

  3. I agree with a quote from Sherman Alexie in the above article: “I believe in any kid’s ability to read any book and form their own judgements. It’s the job of a parent to guide his/her child through the reading of every book imaginable. Censorship of any form punishes curiosity”.

    This is so true. It should not be up to a mis-guided school or a parent who lacks critical-reading skills to ban a book that has literary merit! Here are some other links about this:

    And this is what librarians think about this topic:


    February 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

  4. I can definitely understand why the book is banned, but I don’t think it should be. To me, it reads a lot like The Catcher in the Rye in that the narrator is extremely blunt and honest, only to a more severe case than Holden. I would feel extremely uncomfortable reading the text to my class as it is very edgy, but I think my students would love that. The honestly and blunt manner in which the text is written is the main reason I find it so easy to read. The illustrations are also super unique and make the text even better. But let’s be honest for a second. In the first eight pages alone the narrator calls someone a bastard and refers to himself as a retard numerous times. The book talks about metaphorical sexual content, and finding a bulimic girl sexy. Clearly the book isn’t banned for no reason, but sometimes the controversial texts are the ones that reach students the most.


    February 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    • Good points, Doug. I think the discussion of certain parts of the novel would be a little tricky such as getting students to not start using the word “retard” and saying it’s o.k “because its in the book we are reading in English class.” Definite boundaries and guidelines need to laid out for students to understand what they are going to be reading and how to react in a mature manner or what is acceptable or not acceptable to say within classroom discussions.


      February 17, 2013 at 9:30 am

  5. I do not think this book should be banned. Alexie says it perfectly- “As I write more honestly more kids will make their way toward me.” Speaking from a lot of experience, the more my parents and teachers told me I couldn’t do something, the more I was determined to find a way to do it. Banning a book only gives it more power in the eyes of a curious teenagers. This book, as Shane said, only tells the truth about life. Life is not always pretty-shouldn’t we give our students as much experience as we can to this effect? I do think the teacher has some responsibility it the education of the parents when reading a controversial novel-sending home an explanation of the book, letting parents know why they are choosing this book, and how it will benefit their children may go a long way in getting some parents on our side. However, if the parent still has an issue with the book, then that is acceptable. I do not think bans should come from administration.


    February 13, 2013 at 9:48 am

    • I agree, leave it up to the parents. The explanation is a good idea, and I think most parents will see the value in their kids learning from a novel like this. However, if after the explanation the parent still does not want want their student reading something with they type of language and content in it, then they have the parental right to say no. They might argue that the same types of discussions and lessons that students can learn form this book could be learned from using a similiar book without the language and sexual content.


      February 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm

  6. I do not believe that this book should be banned. It is a great book and I enjoyed the fact that it was honest and raw and did not apologize for its contents. Alexie Sherman wrote a book that is relatable across cultures and environments. Should all books that speak truth be banned? The Diary of Anne Frank is an account of a girl who grew up in an annex during WWII. This story has tough elements in it, yet is still discussed in schools. Should all books with sensitive, honest, and real material be banned? Do we need to keep our children in a bubble? I think it is unrealistic to expect that students haven’t already been exposed to the topics that are written about and read in The True Diary of a Part Time Indian. I think using this piece of literature would be a great way to broach discussions that may be difficult for students to discuss.


    February 13, 2013 at 7:45 pm

  7. Teaching in a Catholic school, we are faced with difficult decisions every day as to what is acceptable reading for our students and what needs to be left for outside the classroom reading. I can understand that if a student is going to read a text with difficult or raw content, it would be better to guide them through it. I feel that Part Time Indian is one of these books- banning the book for its honesty really isn’t the solution. I believe firmly in Alexie’s viewpoint that “Reading the work that disgusts you can only strengthen your core beliefs.” We sometimes have to come across things that challenge what we believe to be right or true in order to affirm those beliefs. Life is messy; do I believe that we should make it messier by pushing banned books for the sake of shaking censorship- no.But I do think it’s important to recognize that “banned books” is a vast umbrella. Each book needs to be considered on an individual basis, not with sweeping decisions.


    February 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    • You give an interesting point about choosing appropriate books for your catholic educational needs. I think teachers are always selecting age appropriate books because there are somethings students may not understand or it may be over there head. I wonder though if a teacher approached the material in a particular way and was very open to questions that may arise, if it could work in questionable environments?


      February 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      • I cannot fathom this text being taught in a Catho0lic School. The only way I could see it working would be if the teacher selected certain parts of the text to read without covering everythink. Junior doesn’t hold back on the sexual content, and I doubt that parents in a Catholic school would approve. It’s a shame really.


        February 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    • I taught in a private school, and we were actually given a list of books that were not appropriate to teach in our language arts classroom. Now there was nothing I could do, I needed the job so I did what I was told, but when looking at the list I noticed several great books that I was thinking these kids were missing out on a great book!


      February 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      • That makes me sad. I have to do the same thing though. Every text I teach must be approved by my administration and as good as this book is, it’s probably not worth the battle of trying to add it to my class.


        February 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

  8. I do not think that Alexie’s book should be banned, although its edgy nature may make it not exactly appropriate for some schooling contexts. I agree with Alexie that “Censorship of any form punishes curiosity,” and think that curiosity is what propels our intrinsic motivation to learn. It seems that what gets Alexie’s book banned is his unrelenting honesty about his experiences, which are of the type that many people would like to ignore or pretend don’t exist. I hope through Alexie’s works and his truthfulness he is able to help kids as he says, “learn the value of subverting the repressive nature of all authority figures.” I agree with Shane that it would be better to have kids read Alexie’s book then watch anything on MTV or almost any television channel for that matter, especially if people are concerned with upholding moral and just sentiments. While Doug brings up the sexual suggestive content and the cursing mentioned in the book, I think some of these realities should be openly discussed instead of ignored or treated as taboo. Students should not have the insightful prose of Alexie withheld from them due to someone else’s opinions and fears about what might happen if exposure to controversy were allowed. Even if people disagree with Alexie’s point of view or his word choice, his text would still be able to be learned from and taught in valuable ways, as he notes is possible with every story. I think facilitating mature discussions on this book would be challenging but sheltering students from the realities that Alexie portrays does not seem like a better option in my opinion. Plus sorting through such touchy subjects would pay dividends by bringing students into a fuller discussion about the world they are bound to inherit.


    February 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

  9. I agree with a quote from Sherman Alexie in the above article: “I believe in any kid’s ability to read any book and form their own judgements. It’s the job of a parent to guide his/her child through the reading of every book imaginable. Censorship of any form punishes curiosity”.

    This is so true. It should not be up to a mis-guided school or a parent who lacks critical-reading skills to ban a book that has literary merit!


    February 14, 2013 at 7:05 am

  10. I do not think that the banning of this book is warranted. I understand that it is our responsibility as educators to keep our students “safe”…but it is ridiculous that we should have to sugar coat everything for them and present a “falsified” alternate reality instead of the truth. We are preparing them for succeeding in the real world, and how can we honestly say we are doing that if we cannot truly discuss controversial issues in the classroom. I think giving students the tools to be able to look at the reality of life and deal accordingly is one of the best skills we could provide them with. Life after high school isn’t sugarcoated or padded, it can be rough, and what a false sense of security we give them if we only ever discuss rainbows and roses. It is interesting to me when Alexie alludes to the idea that, by saying they cannot read it…student are more likely to find a way to read it and thus undermine other figures of authority. Pretty much, he is saying that the plan backfires in the long run anyways and in the end, students are going to stick with their core beliefs anyways, regardless of what they read. As Alexie says in his final quote, “Reading the work that disgusts you can only strengthen your core beliefs”.


    February 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    • Naysa, I like how you present the argument in the context of the real world. The honest truth is that the world can be a pretty miserable place at times. Not everything is always fluffy and perfect. This text grabs the reader with it’s sharp wording and blunt honesty. I know that I couldn’t put it down, and I wanted to know how Junior was going to respond to different challenges.

      I also definitely agree that students are much more likely to read a text when they are told it is banned. Instantly, the students are curious about why the text isn’t allowed in schools, and they want to read it. South Park actually covered this during one of its episodes. The boys found out that Catcher in the Rye was banned so they all read it (and were disappointed that it wasn’t edgy enough). Personally, I would love to teach this book because my students struggle so much to get into reading, but I doubt it would ever happen.


      February 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm

  11. Only because of the language and the sexual content can I see why some schools would have this book on their “banned” list. I believe the actual message that this book is trying to send should be experienced by all readers. However, Many parents do not want their children, even teenagers reading texts that contain swear words and sexual content. I know that some parents are more conservative then others and would be appalled if their 14 year old son/ or daughter were reading a book where the main character was talking about masterbation. How about having a parent permission form where they can option their student out of reading this particular book, maybe give them the opportunity to preview it and read it for themself before making the decision of allowing their child to read it. I can understand both sides of this book. It is funny and pwoerful because it is 100 percent reality and almost all teens can identify with many of the issues faced by Junior, but on the other hand I can understand if some parents would rather students not discuss a text in school that contains the adult language and sexual content.

    David Lewandowski

    February 14, 2013 at 7:29 pm

  12. No I do not think that banning this book is warranted. I agree with Michelle’s comment about Freedom of Speech, I think at a certain grade level this book would be fine. I do not think that it’s appropropriate for elemetnary or 6/7th graders. But beyond that I think that students are able to cope with the violence and sextual content in the book and to understand that it’s just a very real, honest portrayl of Alexie’s experiences and life.


    February 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm

  13. This book is banned because it is brutally honest. It contains honest emotions and realistic situations that, quite frankly, every human being has considered or encountered. However, the novel trivializes these issues, but it does so in a tasteful, inexplicit way. It doesn’t go into detail about these things. Rather, he just expresses the curiosity and simple understanding that most teens go through. Everyone treats teens like they live in bubbles and some of them do, but they also know more than we believe they know. They can be extremely intuitive. I also agree with Alexie that banning a book only increases the intrigue. Earlier this year I had a discussion with my kids regarding banned books. They were more interested in reading those and seeing what they discussed. They wanted to know how a book gets banned and why books are banned. Kids need to read this book and I think that they would connect with it very easily.


    February 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm

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