The Absolutely True Story Of Why I Love Banned Books

IMG_0052_zpsc86d3992Every month, The Book Chewers choose a novel as their Book of the Month. However, in honor of Banned Books Week later in September they have devoted this entire month to all kinds of banned books. I already have a post planned on the subject, but decided to also do this week’s link-up.

“Take a photo of yourself with your favorite banned book, and then write about that book. Talk about the parts of it that are controversial, or explain how you found the book or what it means to you. You can write whatever you want, just tell us something interesting about it!”

Now before we get to the part where I show you Facebook (my face and a book, get it, get it?), I should warn you. I wasn’t having a bad hair day so much as I was having a bad face day. My forehead was like, “Let’s be huge!”, my smile wanted to be awkward, and my eyebrows were off in a world of their own. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating – I look terrible in photos, and even worse in selfies.

Click to expanderize!My favorite banned book is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, written by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Ellen Forney. Although it was published only six years ago, it has already caused much controversy for including the following: alcohol, poverty, bullying, sexual references, profanity, racism, the deaths of multiple characters, and its religious viewpoint. The official blurb reads,

“Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed.

Inspired by his own experiences growing up, award-winning author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live.”

Book banning is a weird thing. On one hand, it’s very serious because a few people try to restrict what all can read. I mean, what’s up with that? How do they not understand the concept of freedom? Of course they don’t have to like everything but they shouldn’t be putting stuff off-limits, because not everyone shares their beliefs.

On the other hand, sometimes book banning cracks me up. Often I’ve read the reason(s) a particular novel was banned and it makes me wonder whether those who had it banned had even read the book, or merely heard about it. Yes, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian deals with many tough subjects. It does not glorify them, though. Consider the following passage – my favorite, because it made me think – found near the end of the book.

“I cried because so many of my fellow tribal members were slowly killing themselves and I wanted them to live. I wanted them to get strong and get sober and get the hell off the rez.

It’s a weird thing.

Reservations were meant to be prisons, you know? Indians were supposed to move onto reservations and die. We were supposed to disappear.

But somehow or another, Indians have forgotten that reservations were meant to be death camps.

I wept because I was the only one who was brave and crazy enough to leave the rez. I was the only one with enough arrogance.”

Book banners seemingly think that reading about drunks makes one want to try alcohol, that reading about how racism hurts people will turn one into a racist, that reading about kids who don’t know when their next meal will be makes one think, “Ooh, I’d like to try out poverty for a day!” Junior’s opinions of these things seem pretty clear though, right? He’s saying LOOK KIDS, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. Book banners too often completely miss the point. Actually, scratch that – has any book bannerย ever understood the reason for including difficult or controversial subjects in books?

Books like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian open our eyes to things we didn’t know existed, or were able to ignore before we read about them. My favorite banned book is not easy to read. Sometimes its gallows humor made me laugh until I cried. Other times, I just cried. I didn’t want to believe that this could happen to Junior, one terrible thing after another. Sometimes, I didn’t want to read even one more page because I didn’t want to know any more.

But that’s precisely the point. Books should make us think and Books With Issues do this the best. I don’t like much realistic fiction but The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is part of that genre and I love it. You see, I find most realistic fiction boring because it’s not fantastical or suspenseful or whatever – it’s about ordinary life. Why would I want to read about things that I do every day?

However, I love The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because although it is realistic, it is not my reality. My life has almost nothing in common with Junior’s; for that I am grateful. But I wouldn’t even know or be grateful for that if I hadn’t been able to read the book in the first place. Short of actually dealing with tough subjects in your own life, reading a book that makes you think is fantastic. Book banners don’t want us to question things, but go ahead and ignore them. Read a banned book this month, or next month, or whenever you feel like it. Learn something new. Think for yourself.

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The Absolutely True Story Of Why I Love Banned Books

  1. Artgirl says:

    I’ve never understood book banning. It’s sort of pointless, because it defeats the whole point of writing an actual thought-provoking book, and besides, people will just read it anyway. Is there a list of banned books? I never really paid attention to band and limits and such as a reader.
    I always look awful in pictures. My skin becomes, if possible, paler than usual, and then in contrast any pimples or scabs or scrapes I have look bright red, and then my hair frizzes and my smile looks cheesy. I will never be a movie actress.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Exactly. It’s forbidden fruit. I’ve done stupid things that people said not to do simply because it’s kind of thrilling to break the rules.
      Here’s a list from the American Library Association: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10 It’s making me giggle because it says books are banned for their religious viewpoint – oh, the horror! A book whose characters are not Christian! Aaaaah!
      same here. Oh well, maybe I’ll be an actress who gets cast in roles for very ugly characters. *cough* Brienne the Beauty…

      • Artgirl says:

        Thank you. *goes to search list* It seems very stupid to ban a book for it’s “religious viewpoint”. I mean, banning books in general is stupid, but that especially. Diversity is a good thing.
        Well, I don’t think you look like Brienne, but that would be an awesome role to play. You’d get to best The Knight of Flowers in combat.
        Oh, by the way, I nominated you for a blog award:
        http://aliencows.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/the-libester-award/

      • Lydia says:

        Book banning based on “religious viewpoint” annoys me. I’m coming from a Christian viewpoint myself, and I’m all too aware that Christians are the main culprits, which is embarrassing. I guess I don’t consider it helpful or legitimate to block out other perspectives.

        Additionally, I find it ironic that Narnia, LotR, HP, and “A Wrinkle in Time” were all banned for religious reasons, even though Tolkien, Lewis, and L’Engle were definitely Christians and J.K. Rowling is supposedly an Episcopalian, which would make her a Christian as well. I guess a certain part of Christianity has a real problem with fantasy? Thank goodness none of those authors did or do.

    • nevillegirl says:

      *grins* Exactly! One of my religious friends have asked me if being an atheist means I want to ban all religions and I have to explain that no, I just don’t believe in any god but I definitely believe in supporting other beliefs. Other perspectives are a good thing.

      I know someone who insisted that high fantasy is more Christian and therefore better because… apparently the magic is different? Because Gandalf uses only good magic and Harry uses good and bad? It seemed ridiculous to me – there’s bad things in the world, too! And HP isn’t exactly advocating for using the Killing Curse, either, but whatever…

  2. orphu44 says:

    You’ve read Absolutely True Diary? Gah, that book’s good.
    Good job on not seeming like a terrible person while describing. I have this running thing in which it seems really difficult to describe because you have to mention at some point that it’s funny, but you also have to mention what it’s actually about – poverty, racism, being outcast, alcoholism, death, etc. – and that just makes you seem heartless.
    Oop, and thanks for the reminder about Banned Books Week.

  3. Lydia says:

    Love the last half of this! Book banning can definitely be hilarious. I don’t think most book banners read the actual book, which is why they can find it in themselves to behave the way they do. Did you know that Shel Silverstein’s “A Light in the Attic” is banned because it might “encourage children to break dishes”? Ha! So funny.

    My favorite part of this post? “LOOK KIDS, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.” That’s an incredibly valid point, and I think I’ll borrow it. XD

    P.S. You forgot to enter your link.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yep, I’ve heard that before. *facepalms* And what kind of world do they think we’re living in, where breaking dishes is the biggest thing we have to worry about?

      Go ahead, I’d be honored! It’s so stupid when people don’t realize that by exposing us to these controversial subjects, books are actually doing us some good. THG has been banned for being violent – but it’s actually saying that violence is terrible! Gah.

      I scheduled the post and then couldn’t get around to adding it until now, but thanks for the reminder. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • orphu44 says:

        I’d heard “A Light in the Attic” was banned for encouraging suicide and devil worship, but never for encouraging breaking dishes. You learn a new reason for banning books with surprising regularity.

  4. Taylor Lynn says:

    I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian awhile back, and I don’t remember all of the plot points, but I do remember that I LOVED it! It’s such a poignant and realistic read, and Junior is such an endearing narrator–you can’t help but root for him. Gah, such a good book, I think it’s due for a reread!

    As for book banning, though, I agree with you; it’s sometimes highly annoying, but at the same time so absurd it becomes humorous. And what’s even more interesting is that banning a book will often accomplish the OPPOSITE of what the book banners were going for–rather than discouraging people from reading it, hearing that a book has been banned will pique a lot of people’s interest and make them wonder, But WHY was it banned?! At any rate, it certainly gets my attention; but then, I think books dealing with controversial subjects can be some of the most thought-provoking, touching and creative books out there–as well as some of the most realistic and true to life. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Can you tell I’m a reader of banned books? And proud of it, too!

    • nevillegirl says:

      (Oops, I thought I’d replied to this already! I guess not!)

      Sometimes people don’t think these things out very well. :/ It’s human nature to do things after we’ve been told not to! You’d think the book banners would just ignore the stuff they don’t like, but noooo.

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