It’s a miracle if a week goes by without a challenge to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Unfortunately, the novel has been challenged once again, this time in Sweet Home, Oregon. CBLDF has joined the CBLDF-sponsored Kid’s Right to Read Project in defending the novel, whose fate will be decided tonight at a special meeting of the school’s reconsideration committee.
CBLDF joins coalition efforts like these to protect the freedom to read comics. Censorship manifests in many ways, and the unique visual nature of comics makes them more prone to censorship than other types of books. Taking an active stand against all instances of censorship curbs precedent that could adversely affect the rights upon which comics readers depend.
A complaint was filed by five parents in the Sweet Home. The Sweet Home nine-member reconsideration committee initially met about two weeks ago to listen to testimony regarding the book. They determined that the book will remain in classrooms during the review process. Removal of the book would have required agreement of seven of the nine members.
The Albany Democrat Herald reports that five parents — only two of which have students in the class reading the book — in the Sweet Home district demanded reconsideration of the novel’s use in classrooms, citing profanity as a reason for the complaints. An extensive permission letter explaining why the book was selected was sent to parents in the system. In contrast to the complainants, 150 parents in the system signed the letter, allowing their children to read the book. The parents of 13 students opted for an alternative assignment.
As KRRP states in the letter signed by CBLDF, allowing five people (representing less than 3% of the parents who responded to the permission letter) to decide what all students in the system are allowed to read violates constitutional principles and existing case law. This challenge is also worrying because of the way in which the reconsideration committee was selected. Instead of selecting education professionals who have the qualifications to make pedagogical decisions, the school board allowed parents present at a board meeting — many of whom attended the meeting to complain about the book — to volunteer for the committee. Of further concern is the appointment of the pastor of Community Chapel, a local church whose members have been vocal in the opposition to Absolutely True Diary, to the committee.
KRRP’s letter to the members of the reconsideration committee follows. The committee meets tonight at 5:00 p.m. PST to decide the book’s fate. CBLDF will post updates on the challenge as soon as they are available.
Previous coverage about challenges to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: