Sherman Alexie novel officially banned from Missouri school

A disappointing ruling came out last night regarding Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in Stockton, Missouri. The Stockton School Board voted 7-0 holding firm in its decision to remove the book from school classrooms, notwithstanding pressure from many educators to keep it. The board also ruled in favor of banning the book from the high school library.

This all because one elementary-school parent complained about the book’s content.

NCAC joined forces with National Council of Teachers of English, American Library Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, PEN America Center, and Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators opposing the decision, saying,

No educational rationale has been advanced for removing the book, nor could one be plausibly made. The novel has received universal acclaim by literary critics and educators alike.

But board member Ken Spurgeon wouldn’t have it. He says,

We can take the book and wrap it in those 20 awards everyone else said it won and it still is wrong.

High school student Dakota Freeze, who is against the ban, explains exactly what a young person might gain from reading it:

This book in a nutshell is my hope. It’s not about giving up. It’s about not letting people tell you you’re not worth it.

It is the board’s sheer refusal to listen to educators, reviewers and – especially – students speak about the educational merits of Alexie’s novel that harms young people of Stockton. Not the book.

About Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship

Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
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25 Responses to Sherman Alexie novel officially banned from Missouri school

  1. SunsetJello says:

    I’m appallesd at this decision. I live in Missouri and I can attest that such ignorance is rampant in many areas. However, my local library was close to shosing this as the book for their community-wide reading club, while in another part of the state it’s being banned? That seems wrong.

  2. Wow! I’m seriously pissed! This is SO wrong!!! Who could dare side with a single parent’s discretions on a novel so widely loved? I feel for Sherman and his audience, but mostly for those poor children who must be raised in that obviously sorry education system.

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  4. Sally Derby says:

    How do you get people with such benighted attitudes on school boards? Could it be that thinking people were too lazy to vote? Or, in that kind of school district, were they afraid to run?

  5. tshiung says:

    there needs to be a way to register a non-complaint

  6. Dan Kleinman says:

    Judith Krug, who created “Banned Books Week,” said:

    “On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library. In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn’t fit your material selection policy, get it out of there.”

    Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week,” by Judith Krug, Curriculum Review, 46:1, Sep. 2006.

    So we are not really talking about a book ban, are we.

    The last book banned in the USA, namely, Fanny Hill, was last banned in 1963. In 1963, folks.

    As former ALA Councilor Jessamyn West said, “It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don’t talk about much — the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it’s totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all.” See “Banned Books Week is Next Week.”

    Totally different.

    No “ban” occurred. Bravo to Stockton.

    I note the ALA made a personal visit to this community (according the the ALA’s Exec Dir report of a few days ago) and the book was still removed. That indicates to me that the ALA is losing its touch or that communities are wising up to the ALA tactics. The “banned books” house of cards may be falling.

    • Laura says:

      The parent who complained about the book was the parent of an elementary school student, not a high school student. The book was taken out of the high school’s curriculum and was removed from the HIGH SCHOOL’S library. Therefore, this goes beyond the case of “a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library,” as you stated above.

      I’m not really sure you clearly make your point as to how this book was NOT banned from the Stockton School District.

  7. Kats says:

    Apparently, the reading level is too low, but the content is too mature.
    How, exactly, does one rationalize that?

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  10. AmyK says:

    In response to Dan Kleinman and others who dispute the validity of the use of the word “ban” or “banned” when speaking of books that are removed from libraries or school media centers –

    If we look at Merriam-Webster, the definition of the word “BAN” means: to prohibit especially by legal means; also : to prohibit the use, performance, or distribution of.

    If books are being removed from use, performance or distribution in a library system or media center, then yes, they are being banned. No, they are not being banned by our national government (thank goodness), but that does not mitigate the fact that certain segments of our nation’s population are being deprived of the use of the banned materials. It is rather unfair to say that children are being FORCED to read these materials – nearly every school summer reading list that I have ever seen has MANY novels for students to choose from. Also, as far as I’m aware, most (if not all) schools will allow a student to choose a different book, as long as it is an appropriate substitution, in the case of a required class reading assignment.

    In short, I don’t believe that someone else, whether they are on the school or library board or the president of the USA, has the right or authority to prevent me from choosing the books, art, music, movies etc that I want to read, or listen to, or view. Banning materials goes against all the principles of individual freedom that our country was founded upon. Those who seek to challenge books on the basis that they are in direct conflict with their individual values should remember why the early colonists left England in the first place – freedom.

  11. Dan Kleinman says:

    AmyK, that’s nice. So Judith Krug, quoted in my previous comment, is a book banner according to you.

    “On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library. In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn’t fit your material selection policy, get it out of there.”

    And that, as you say, “goes against all the principles of individual freedom that our country was founded upon”? Okay, interesting.

  12. jon.relhots says:


  13. asdf says:

    This book addresses issues such as gay bashing and alcoholism and provides positive counter argument to each. Issues that actually need resolution in our schools. Yet the school board of Missouri looks passed those points onto explicit and touchy, but not harmful issues such as masturbation and profanity. The ignorance of this school board resulted in banning of a book that could have greatly contributed to the education of the American.

  14. Nolan Flats says:

    I completely agree with you asdf. And why should we be banning this book which has a positive meaning and we are still letting kids read “Romeo and Juliet” is school? Looking back at that book now, it was filled with crass and horrible content that was completely unrelated to the story. The topics of controversy in this book at least have meaning to the story.

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  17. sandy wilson says:

    I read this book and loved it for its message of the worth of an education and of tolerance for differences. I requested that my high school librarian order it for our library. Many of my students have read -and enjoyed- it. Getting teens to read in the midst of so many instant-gratification technologies is difficult; why ban a book that students will enjoy when it has such a positive message??

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  20. L says:

    It’s seriously annoying that as a country that encourages “freedom of speech”, we seek to ban one of the most basic forms of “free speech”. I mean, it’s understandable that some people want a string rating system on books, but not only do libraries already have sections so that younger people know where the books most suited for them are, but also parents have the responsibility of knowing what their kids are reading and deciding whether or not they should read it. If you go to you can see what age a book is most suitable for. And if parents have such an issue with whatever their child is reading, just contact the school and ask them to add an alternative book to the curriculum, instead of flat out banning it.

  21. anthony says:

    The schools shouldn’t be able to tell students what to read. The first amendment grants freedom of speech. it is a unalienable right.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Although there are some reasons that this book is banned (sexual content, racism, abuse, violence…) children have access to all of these anyway. For example, VICTORIAS SECRET. All of their ads are basically about sex. These ads are shown on tv, and children DO see them. Both sex and violence are also on tv shows like GLEE. This is a popular tv show in my SISTER’S 7TH GRADE CLASS. Children have access to the topics discussed in this book even if they do not have access to te book itself.

  23. Pingback: Sherman Alexie's Young-Adult Novel Faces Another Ban | canacast.networks.beta

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