Dade County removes novel from school library and reading list

photo "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 MeyerSource: American Library Association

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."