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Stockton Book Ban Evokes Criticism

518bFu3S5KL._SL160_Earlier this month, the Stockton school board in Missouri ruled in favor of upholding their April decision to ban a book from the 9-12 grade curriculum. The book in question, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, is about the experiences of a teenage boy living on a Native American reservation and attending a primarily white high school. The book has themes of hope and survival, touches on violence and racism, and also contains sexual references and profanity. It is these latter elements that have some parents and school board members up in arms, forcing the ban, despite objections from faculty, students and the community at large. A series of articles on the News-Leader website do an admirable job of condemning the ban, highlighting the school board’s shortsightedness and emphasizing the freedom to read. Despite (or perhaps because of) the controversy, the book has obviously struck a chord with young readers. “This book in a nutshell is my hope,” states Stockton senior Dakota Freeze at the recent hearing. “It’s not about giving up. It’s about not letting people tell you you’re not worth it.”

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a highly acclaimed book and has won 20 awards including the prestigious National Book Award for Young People’s Litera­ture in 2007. It is a shame that young adults are deprived of reading an award-winning book because of the oversensitivity of a dissenting minority, some of whom have not even read the book. “Ours is a public school system, not a private school…We want our high school students to read widely and think deeply. Book banning is unacceptable,” writes Cheryl Marcum in an opinion piece.

Ironically, the news of the ban has put the book in high demand at local libraries and books stores. There is a waiting list for it in the Springfield-Greene County Library District, and at least two book stores in the area have ordered more copies. In an article discussing the sudden popularity, Dave Iseman explains the phenomenon. “Anyone who has ever tried to raise a teenager – or remembers what it’s like to be one – knows why. Nothing is more intriguing than stuff adults do not want you to see.”

September 25 – October 2 is Banned Books Week. For more information about recently banned books, as well as the reasons for the ban, download the Banned Books Bibliography from the Illinois Library Association (ILA) website.

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