September 23 – 29 is Banned Books week, a week celebrating the freedom to read, drawing attention to banned and challenged books, and highlighting persecuted individuals or groups. Each day this week, I’ll countdown the top ten books most often challenged or removed from schools, universities, or libraries across the United States.
written by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary, a novel told in first person by the 14-year-old Native American narrator, has been consistently challenged since its publication for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality. For the past year, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
The novel is told in episodic, diary format about a young Native American boy from the Spokane Indian Reservation who travels off the reservation to attend a non-Indian high school. It is mostly autobiographical, Junior being broadly based on the author’s childhood and life, and details issues the reservations face: mainly violence, poverty, and alcoholism.
The picture Junior paints of reservation life is pretty bleak, and tragedy strikes many times over the course of the novel. But there are moments of hope and happiness as well. Junior hides a lot of anger and pain behind sarcasm and jokes, but he’s also hopeful of attaining his dreams of being a cartoonist.
The Absolutely True Diary has received as much controversy as it has praise with parents protesting its portrayal of alcohol, family, sexuality, and poverty as well as its language and cultural insensitivity. It’s also pulled in the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the 2008 American Indian Youth Literature Awards. American Indian Library Association Best Young Adult Book, and the 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Fiction and Poetry though American Indian Library Association repealed the award following accusations of sexual misconduct by the author.