Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which CBLDF has defended from challenges in the past, was apparently removed from a sixth-grade reading list in Queens, New York, earlier this week after complaints from parents. Unfortunately the few news sources that have reported on the case are biased and provide scant information, with one going so far as to label the Young Adult novel a “book on masturbation.”
Under a headline announcing that students “no longer must read racy Diary,” the New York Daily News seemed proud to note that Public School/Middle School 114 removed the book from the reading list — or possibly just made it optional rather than required — under “pressure from…outraged parents and after inquiries from the Daily News.” The article includes a quote from a parent who said the book “was like Fifty Shades of Grey for kids,” but no statements from school officials or details on the assignment. Fox News then picked up the story and slapped it with a headline that was even more biased, considering that masturbation is briefly mentioned only a few times in the 288-page novel.
The biased coverage was noted at YA review blog Bookshelves of Doom:
A discussion about whether or not The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the right fit for a required reading assignment for sixth graders? Totally worth having.
Labelling it a “book on masturbation”? COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS.
That’s like saying, I dunno, that To Kill a Mockingbird is about ham.
We will keep you apprised of this story if any more details emerge!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.