published Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Dade County removes novel from school library and reading list


by Andy Johns
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    "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian" (2007) is a novel for young adults written by Sherman Alexie. The book has been banned for the time being by the Dade County High School superintendent after parents complained about its content.

Dade County, Ga., school officials have pulled a book from library shelves and the required high school reading list because of complaints from parents.

Dade County High students had been required to read "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian," but after numerous complaints about vulgarity, racism and anti-Christian content, Superintendent Shawn Tobin decided to remove the book until it could be reviewed by a media center committee.

"Some people thought it was the greatest book ever, and some people thought it was the most perverted book ever," Tobin said.

"The Absolutely True Diary" follows Junior, a misfit teenager growing up on a Washington Indian reservation, as he goes through a year of high school. The National Book Award-winning novel is based more or less on author Sherman Alexie's life.

Tobin said most of the complaints centered on profanity, as well as a depiction of Jesus Christ breaking wind.

"Numerous parents were calling," he said.

Trenton resident Mechele Berry told the Dade County Sentinel she was shocked by the content in the book her son was required to read.

"It was just disgusting," she told the paper. "You know, perversion."

Attempts to reach Berry and other parents were unsuccessful Friday.

Most Challenged Books in Libraries or Public Schools


• "And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

• "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie

• "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley

• "Crank," by Ellen Hopkins

• "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins

• "Lush," by Natasha Friend

• "What My Mother Doesn't Know," by Sonya Sones

• "Nickel and Dimed," by Barbara Ehrenreich

• "Revolutionary Voices," edited by Amy Sonnie

• "Twilight," by Stephenie Meyer

Source: American Library Association

Poll
Should the book be removed from library shelves?

But Tobin said he's very cautious about banning books because many classics, such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Huckleberry Finn," have some adult themes and word choices.

"There's profanity in it; there's profanity in a lot of books," he said. "My intent is not to start removing books left and right. The idea was to make sure that a child always has an option."

Hamilton County Schools officials said they had not had any complaints about the book.

Tobin said that, in the future, required-reading books would be reviewed by the media center committee. If they are deemed to contain potentially offensive material, teachers will be required to provide an alternative book for students whose parents object.

Dade County is not the first place to ban the Alexie book.

The novel was No. 2 on the American Library Association's list of most frequently challenged books in 2010. The association listed offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit material and violence as reasons for the challenges. Also on the list were "The Hunger Games" at No. 5 and "Twilight" at No. 10.

The book was banned in Stockton, Mo., in 2010 and Richland, Wash., in June, according to newspaper reports. Officials in Richland changed their votes after reading the book, according to the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash.

The Stockton School Board documented 74 "instances of vulgarity" throughout the novel's 230 pages, according to the Cedar County Republican newspaper.

"We can take this book and we can wrap it in those 20 awards everybody said it won, and you know what? It is still wrong," Richland board member Ken Spurgeon told the paper.

But Pat Scales, chairwoman of the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee, said the book was "fabulous" and 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."

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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nucanuck said...

Narrow minds in Dade County?? Say it ain't so!

November 13, 2011 at 12:59 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Obviously these people - most or all of them Christians, I'm sure - haven't read their Old Testament. Rape, human and animal sacrifice, incest, polygamy, misogyny, slavery, genocide....it's all there and it's all sanctioned by God. I doubt that any other book in their library can top it for the amount of horrific, detestable acts and imagery. If they're gonna start banning books, the Bible should be the first to go.

November 13, 2011 at 1:46 a.m.
bookworm said...

There is an idealized 'leave it to Beaver' stereotypical White Southern view to culture that still persists from antebellum days. I guess that is par, but the book should be opening challenged in class by the students as to its pro's and con's, and not banned by middle aged fuddy-duddies.

November 13, 2011 at 4:54 a.m.
scoop78 said...

Jesus was God in man. He lived among us so that he could know what we know, experience the joys and pains of humanity, and ultimately save us. Are you going to tell me that he didn't occasionally rip one? C'mon! The Middle Eastern diet has a lot of whole grains in it after all. Jesus definitely farted.

November 13, 2011 at 8:27 a.m.
rolando said...

If they're gonna start banning books, the Bible should be the first to go.

I very seriously doubt there is any version of the Bible -- other than the Koran -- in any US public school these days, Rickaroo. It was banned from them in the aftermath of the Madalyn Murray decision.

The Old Testament is basically history; you want something truly horrific, etc., etc., read an unexpurgated version of US History. Maybe we should ban all history books too...oh, wait...we have already started.

November 13, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.
rosebud said...

Thanks to the Dade County Sentinel, without whom the TFP would have never heard of this story.

November 13, 2011 at 9:06 a.m.
acerigger said...

rolando said..."you want something truly horrific, etc., etc., read an unexpurgated version of US History. Maybe we should ban all history books too...oh, wait...we have already started."

I must agree with you rolando, "The Peoples History of The United States" by Howard Zinn, although not "banned" per se, has certainly been suppressed.

"Knowledge is power",, a very scary thought for some!

November 13, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
rolando said...

Somewhere along the line and for some odd reason, I downloaded that book, ace.

It makes for "interesting" reading, although not for the purist...it is written from "the other guy's" viewpoint. I read it in fits and starts...haven't gotten completely through it yet. A bit too Abbie Hoffman for regular fare.

Your closing regarding knowledge is, indeed, "a very scary thought for some!"

November 13, 2011 at 9:33 a.m.
rolando said...

Good Lord! Brave New World is on the challenged list? It ranks Number Five on the list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Much too prophetic, I guess.

Is Winnie, the Pooh banned? How about Grimm's Fairy Tales?

Stupid freekin' people. How is a kid supposed to sort out reality from the pablum BS the schools teach, what video games show, and what TV offers if not through reading. Yeah, I know...first they have to know how to read, right? Something else the teachers/parents aren't thrilled with teaching the kids.

November 13, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
ricardo said...

Yee-haaawww. Let's have us a good ole fashioned book burning party! Jesus breaking wind is "anti-Christian"? Seriously? He was a man while he was on earth. He probably picked his nose and wiped his own butt too. Let's get real people.

November 13, 2011 at 10:22 a.m.
slygotony said...

Dade County is not above holding a book burning.

November 13, 2011 at 10:30 a.m.
dissonance said...

Dade County should worry more about educating their children and less about censoring books. They had the lowest CRCT numbers in Northwest Georgia. Their reading/comprehension scores were abysmal.

November 13, 2011 at 10:45 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Rolando, I'm sure you will still find the Bible in practically every public school library. The Madalyn Murray O'Hair decision (1963) of which you speak simply ended government-sponsored organized prayer in the public schools. It did not attempt to ban the Bible, the book itself, outright, although it definitely needs to be located in the Fiction category of any library. If the Bible is history, then so is Grimm's Fairy Tales. Our country is at such an impasse today because we have so many people like you and the lame-brained evangelicals in politics trying to shape government policy based on their silly notions of Biblical “history” and prophecy.

The Old Testament is nothing more than a primitive people's primitive concept of a God that they wanted to think was on their side, to protect and guide them. Why in the world would the God of the entire universe even decide to have a “chosen” people? It makes no sense whatsoever. But I am not going to try to dissuade you from your juvenile notion that the Bible is “history.” If you haven't figured that out by now as an adult, no amount of logic is going to convince you otherwise.

November 13, 2011 at 11:15 a.m.
chefdavid said...

Next they will ban Dante's Divine Comedy because it is two descriptive. Once again Dade's Vocal So-Called "Moral" Minority wins against the silent majority.

November 13, 2011 at 11:16 a.m.
minddoc said...

Indeed, Jesus did take human form and ALL humans do "fart" (oops, sorry - "pass gas" - can't have "fart" and Jesus in the same sentence, God forbid [pun intended]). Humans, on average, "pass gas" 14 times per day (see http://scienceray.com for one reference). When Jesus took on a human body, he had to take on the same body we all have and most certainly passed gas, burped, and he most certainly produced all sorts of other noises human bodies make. The irony is, if we are made in God's image, is it that much of a leap to say that God may very well "pass gas", too? (Can't wait for the responses to that one!). The best part of all this? God is probably laughing at how uptight we are over normal bodily functions...yet crying that we haven't raised our children well enough to trust that they can be exposed to stories such as this - and the valuable lessons within the stories of most of the "Top Ten" banned books (Brave New World - really???) without somehow converting into devil worshipers. When will they learn that if you tell a child/teen that they can't read a book because of the content, that book will be read in secret? Or maybe banning the book is an incredibly smart manipulation by Dade County to get kids to read the book?? Nah, they're not that smart...

November 13, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
teacher1 said...

First of all, let's not judge all of Dade County by the opinions of one or two people. The teachers in the Dade County schools work tirelessly to educate the students in the best possible manner. If you really want to know the entire story, including many teacher's opinions, read the story in the Dade County Sentinel. This version of the events is much more on point with what actually took place, including the fact that many educators opposed the "banning" of the book in question. It is sad when one or two (by the way, not several) parents can dictate the educational process of all students in any school system. I would also like to point out that an alternate book selection was available and known to the public as early as June and any student was free to choose that book if they found the other selection objectionable.

November 13, 2011 at 12:06 p.m.
dude_abides said...

Dade County is gonna need something to Kindle the book burning fire. Ah, progress.

November 13, 2011 at 1:42 p.m.

@ teacher1 one or two parents have always caused problems in the school system. That is how we lost prayer in school, peanuts,and latex. Anything that bothers a small handful is removed. Everyone tries to be so accommodating that before we know it we have handed away our rights and privileges. Parents who take offense should be able to opt out from these reading books, without their childs grade suffering. They may not agree, and it is their right as the childs parents not to have it shoved down their childs throat. They shouldn't however, be able to dictate to others.

November 14, 2011 at 12:12 a.m.

WOW! Where are the adults at? From what I've read you all act like small children! Aren't ADULTS suppose to act like ADULTS? Way to go guys...way to teach our children...our future, the way to talk about, put down, make fun of, and ridicule others that have a different opinion than yours. From what I read in the article the parents never put any of the adults down they just objected to the book. But you all seem to be taking offense to their decision instead of seeing that everyone is different and respecting them you all seem to be wanting to take them to the firing post. Seems you all could take lessons from these parents, they at least know how to keep the name calling down. Grow up ADULTS - if this is all you have to offer children then I say keep your offerings to yourself.

November 14, 2011 at 9:31 a.m.

@wherearetheadults - I don't believe there is any evidence here of one group condemning the others. If so, you are guilty of doing the same. You say, "everyone is different" and that we should not "...ridicule others that have a different opinion." Yet, you are condemning those who have commented for their opinion. Herein lies the problem. We are all open to the opinions of others so long as they are in line with our own. We are all for acceptance and freedom of ideas as long as they do not cross our line of offense. Which is what the entire argument boils down to. So, some parents did not want their child to read the book. Ok, do not allow those children to read the book. However, in disallowing all children access to the book, we are promoting the exact opposite of acceptance of all opinions. Rather we are teaching them to accept only the opinions of those who speak out. I believe the offense was not that some didn't want their children reading the book, but that those who opposed the book did exactly what they were opposed to. They took the choice of others away.

November 14, 2011 at 12:55 p.m.

@openmindedchristian - You should make sure you know all the facts before you make your ever so charming statement of "I don't believe there is any evidence here of one group condemning the other". I really don't care who is on which side, I agree that this all started because of opposition. But the "heat" that has been turned on about withdrawing this book is strictly from the administration, not the parents or the teachers. There have been no riots or petitions passed around by parents or citizens of Dade County, to have this book banned. From what I do know about this situation some of the teachers are upset at administration for pulling the book but since administration signs their checks, they can't take their frustrations out on them so they are giving it to the parents who simply just wanted their children to read something else. The parents, that I know that have opposed the book, wasn't out for blood or media exposure. They just voiced their opinion to the teachers and principal about their child not reading it. The principal had not read the book but after he read it he made the choice to pull the book. From there it went to the superintendant, then to the media, from the media to the papers to these immature comments that are criticizing the parents. Everyone needs to take a step back and check themselves personally. One more question for you "openmindedchristian" - are you able to scroll through the comments that have been left? If so, how can you say that "there is no evidence of one group condemning the other"...Really?

November 14, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.

@wherearetheadults - Please forgive me as it is never my intent to offend, only to comment on the obvious. You do seem to have much knowledge of the situation and bring up some valid points. One, you stated that teachers are unable to make known their frustrations to administration because administration signs their checks. I must question such a system. What kind of oppression must the teachers be facing if they are unable to voice any frustrations to the very people who should be there to hear them. And I always believed it was taxpayers that signed the checks of educators as they are employees of the state and the majority of taxpayers that have commented on this post seem to be in favor of the allowing the book to be read. Second, you mentioned that the teachers are therefore taking out their frustrations on parents. I have been following this story in both print and media and find it interesting that the voice of the teachers has not been heard. Oppression. Opposition. Interesting to note whose voices are seemingly being oppressed.

November 14, 2011 at 9:53 p.m.
olhoazul2 said...

Only complete morons ban books. If the county school board did it then obviously the gene pool there needs some major outside contribution for a few generations. Really embarrassing.

November 18, 2011 at 2:46 p.m.
1anonymous1 said...

I would just like to say, I am a practicing Christian and an educator, and I absolutely adore this book. I really believe most readers will find that the book teaches important moral values (Christian, even), and also present priceless opportunities for young people to learn through catharsis. By experiencing Junior's pain and grief, students are more able to work through their own pain and grief. I hope the other parents of Dade County read the book for themselves and decide whether or not their child should read it.

November 28, 2011 at 6:27 p.m.
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