Reading with Scissors
Posted by: Keir Graff
The Chicago Tribune reports on a case of book-phobia that’s not all that far from ALA headquarters: Antioch, Illinois (“Some parents seek to ban ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’,” by Ruth Fuller). According to the story:
Some parents of incoming freshmen at Antioch High School want an assigned summer reading book pulled from the school’s shelves and the curriculum because it uses foul, racist language and describes sexual acts.
You can read Ian Chipman’s review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to see how unimaginative these parents are being. I don’t link to these stories too much anymore, partly because American Libraries and AL Direct do a better job of it, but partly because the stories seem so depressingly similar. Often it feels as though you could change the proper nouns and republish the story.
This one, though, had a quote from one of the parents that jumped out at me:
Anderson said she read the book because she wanted to be able to help her son understand it.
“I began reading, and I started to cross out sections that I didn’t want him to read,” she said. “Soon I thought, ‘Wait, this is not appropriate; he is not reading this.’ “
I love how blase this is, as if the act of helping your child understand a book involves crossing out the parts you don’t even want to talk about. As the chairman of the English department so sensibly states, the book is exactly about the kinds of things that the high-schoolers-to-be will encounter in high school; it’s exactly the kind of book to help them with it.
Parents, of course, should always be part of their children’s learning experiences, but they should act as transmitters of ideas, not censors. In this case, the teens would be better off without their parents’ “help.”
Final thought: the reading list apparently already includes an alternative title, quoted as “Down River,” although they probably mean Will Hobbs’ Downriver, not John Hart’s Down River. But does it hurt a YA author’s street cred to be the safe alternate for a controversial book? Just asking.