North Carolina Woman Challenges Absolutely True Diary for Second Time

Frankie Wood


The Brunswick County, North Carolina woman who last year waged a fruitless months-long battle to have Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian banned from a local middle school has resurfaced this week to challenge the same book again, this time in a high school. This time around, she has adopted the novel tactic of claiming that the Young Adult book “portrays bestiality.”

Frankie Wood, the grandmother of a student who will attend West Brunswick High School next year, says she wants Absolutely True Diary removed from that school’s library and classrooms because it “is very offensive to any moral person.” In a letter to the Brunswick County School Board and new superintendent Les Tubb, Wood elaborated on her objections:

[The book] describes sexual practices, has references to sexual behavior (bestiality) that is against the law in the state of NC, has offensive language, has negative remarks about the religious practices of Christians and Jews and has bullying along with other offensive references. It has derogatory statements about blacks and Indians and definitely shows racism.

For those readers racking their brains trying to recall bestiality in Alexie’s novel, Wood is most likely referring to a racist joke told by a bully and antagonist of the main character Junior. Needless to say, in context the joke is treated as hurtful and offensive — in fact it provokes Junior into punching the bully in the face. But Wood is obviously hoping that the shock value of the subject matter taken out of context will be enough to convince a review committee, the school board, and/or members of the community that the book does not belong in West Brunswick High School.

Although Wood already appealed her previous challenge all the way to the school board last year, district officials confirmed that they will indeed hear a second challenge to the same book from the same person. Former superintendent Edward Pruden handled last year’s marathon challenge with patience and aplomb — so much so that we recognized him as a Free Speech Superhero during Banned Books Week — but the school board terminated him with no public explanation last November. (To be clear, we do not know nor are we suggesting that his defense of the book was necessarily connected to his subsequent dismissal.) We certainly hope that the new superintendent and current board members will continue to stand up to Wood’s scare tactics.

What Wood probably doesn’t know is that her revived challenge gives Absolutely True Diary a head start on the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books for 2015, after it came in at #1 on the 2014 list, which was released last week. In an interview on Seattle radio station KUOW following that news, Alexie likened it to “having a #1 hit on the Billboard charts” in terms of book sales and popularity. Wood is certainly doing her part to promote the book!

Here are our stories about her previous challenge:

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2015 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF! 

Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.