The absolutely true story of what happened to that book in Meridian

broberts@idahostatesman.comApril 2, 2014 

Sharon Blair speaks at a Meridian School District public hearing, telling trustees the novel "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" isn't suitable for kids.

IDAHO STATESMAN

We’ve received lots of comments on our Statesman website and Facebook page on my story about what Meridian School District did with a controversial 10th-grade book titled “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” at its Tuesday trustees meeting.

Let’s set the record straight on a couple of points:

- Meridian trustees didn’t ban the book.

- Nor did they remove the book from school libraries.

The Sherman Alexie book was on the supplemental reading list for 10th-graders in Meridian School District. Supplemental reading lists are typically books from which teachers chose a title for a class or small group to read.

Some parents complained about the book, saying it mentioned masturbation, used profanity and was viewed by many as anti-Christian. A district committee initially voted to keep the book on the list, but require parental permission for students to read it.

But Linda Clark, district superintendent, thought the issue belonged before the trustees. So the book was pulled out of the curriculum in Janaury pending their decision.

At Tuesday’s meeting, trustees voted 2 to 1 to keep the book off the curriculum list while they sought a replacement.

Trustee Carol Sayles voted against the proposal. Anne Ritter and Tina Dean supported it.

Now the district will lay out plans to find a replacement book.

The district also decided to review more than 200 books on its supplemental reading list for sixth through 12th grades. The work is supposed to be done by fall.

The list contains some well-known books: “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The list also includes “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, both books that have drawn criticism and faced challenges across the country in the past.

So here is your chance to see what is on the district’s supplemental list and decide for yourself what you think is appropriate. Note: the chart makes reference to a Lexile range, which has to do with reading complexity.

As for me, I have an assignment. I’m going to read ”The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” beginning this weekend. I’ll write up some thoughts when I get done.

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