The collections management course, led by Mary Grace Flaherty here at UNC-Chapel Hill’s SILS program, proves not only to be my most exciting class each week, but also stays seasonally appropriate. In honour of Banned Book Week, she had us write a defense for keeping a banned book in a collection. I chose The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie because it should be required reading for all students (and parents) rather than banned from circulation. The Absolutely True Diary performs two essential functions: it provides a rare opportunity for non-Native people to glimpse the realities of growing up as a Native American in the U.S., and it acts an essential space for young adults to process their experiences and those of their peers.
In his article for the Wall Street Journal in 2011, Alexie poignantly writes this of the value of reading books that realistically reflect the lived experience of young adults: “[T]here are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them… I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life… And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”
For a full account of my defense, please see the following PDF: Banned Book Defense