Two weeks after the last challenge to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was positively resolved, the book has been removed from eighth grade classrooms at a middle school in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, after a parent complained about its “profanity and sexual content.”
When the local newspaper initially reported the challenge at Harpers Ferry Middle School last week, teacher Dawn Welsh and principal Joseph Spurgas both voiced their strong support for the book. Welsh said that some of her students “are just buried in this book and it is the first time they have really read a book from cover to cover this year — and for some, since they’ve been in middle school.” In fact, students who weren’t even in the accelerated reading classes in which the book was assigned were coming into her classroom during their free time just to read it. So, when parent Misty Frank objected to the assignment, Welsh and Spurgas offered her son an alternate book rather than taking Absolutely True Diary away from all students. Any other parent or student who preferred the alternate book also had that option, Spurgas told the newspaper.
But two days later, Welsh and Spurgas were overruled by Jefferson County Schools assistant superintendent Pat Blanc, who told the newspaper that the book “should have gone through the process for approval in the county, [b]ut that didn’t happen.” As of last Tuesday, Absolutely True Diary was revoked from all 120 of Welsh’s reading students.
Since its publication in 2007, Alexie’s National Book Award-winning novel has been a constant presence on the American Library Association’s annual list of the most frequently banned and challenged books. This year alone, it has also been challenged in Montana, New York, and Washington. Stay tuned to CBLDF for updates on this latest ban!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.