Sherman Alexie's award-winning young-adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian tells the tale of an awkward Native American kid growing up and discovering who he is amid the poverty of the Spokane Indian Reservation. It's a story with elements of racial identity, bullying, poverty, death, and sex.
Not that the members of the Richland School Board would know that. They voted to ban the book even though none of them had actually read it.The Tri-City Herald reports that the school board, in conjunction with the Instructional Materials Committee, decided to ban the book because of some scattered uses of profanity and sexual themes (there's one masturbation scene in the book).
At the hearing in which the novel was banned from the curriculum, the board members admitted that none of them had actually read it.
Richland School Board President Richard Jansons tells Seattle Weekly that he has a copy of the book now, and that he plans to read it. He also says that another member of the board plans to bring the book's use up again during an upcoming hearing, which may put it back on the curriculum for older students.
"When I expect controversy in a book, I read it," says Jansons. "I wasn't expecting controversy in this case, so I hadn't read it. In this case, the recommendation from the IMC was that it's not appropriate for younger students."
Here's a passage from the book that no doubt the gatekeepers at the IMC were worried about.
"Yep, I have to admit that isosceles triangles make me feel hormonal. Most guys, no matter what age, get excited about curves and circles, but not me. Don't get me wrong, I like girls and their curves. And I really like women and their curvier curves. I spend hours in the bathroom with a magazine that has one thousand pictures of naked movie stars: Naked women + right hand = happy happy joy joy. Yep, that's right. I admit that I masturbate. I'm proud of it. I'm good at it. I'm ambidextrous. If there were a Professional Masturbators League, I'd get drafted number one and make millions of dollars. And maybe you're thinking, 'Well, you really shouldn't be talking about masturbation in public.' Well, tough, I'm going to talk about it because EVERYBODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it. And if God hadn't wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn't have given us thumbs. But, the thing is, no matter how much time my thumbs and I spend with the curves of imaginary women, I am much more in love with the right angles of buildings."
Can't imagine that 14-year-old boys might find something to relate to in there.
Plus, finding a way to equate masturbation with a love of geometry is an educational feat deserving of its own textbook chapter.