Book Ban Battle

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - 3:15pm

Missouri school board considers overturning ban of Sherman Alexie novel.

A Missouri school board will soon decide if it should overturn a ban on the book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian."

A source said the group voted by a narrow margin that the book is "educationally suitable for Stockton High School" but it's not likely the report will quiet the noisy debate in the school district.

"It's the story of a 14-year-old Indian boy," said Cheryl Marcum.

Marcum is now a fan of the coming-of-age story in "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," despite the fact that she didn't know the award-winning book existed a couple months ago.

"It's just a great book. I would never have read the book if it hadn't been banned. I am so glad I got to read it," she said.

The book is banned at Stockton High School.

"I thought it was inappropriate to be required reading, and we shouldn't have been required to read it," said student Seth Pyle.

Student Leighanna Willinger had a different opinion.

"I think they should un-ban it because, when you make something taboo, it just makes kids want to read it more," she said.

People are reading Sherman Alexie's book; it seems those without a copy want one.

At the local library on a recent day, you could find "Lord Of The Rings."

You could also find the popular "Twilight" books and "Eclipse."

You couldn't find the banned book.

The library has three copies and they were all checked out, and three people were on a waiting list to check it out.

"It's as if we have a community read going on," said Marcum.

The battle started when a parent complained about language, violence and sexual situations in the novel.

The school board responded with a ban. That's when Marcum joined the tension filled plot line and confronted board members.

"I asked about the language and the sexual content, if you feel personally that it's appropriate for a 13-year-old girl to read that and have open discussion in a classroom," a school board member asked
Marcum at a meeting that was recorded by the Cedar County Republican newspaper.

"It's my understanding the language is not discussed in the classroom but, if it came up, I trust our English teachers to know how to handle that," Marcum replied.

"I think that's the problem," the board member said.

Meantime, the superintendent is like a referee, just hoping to write a happy ending.

"My wish for the whole process is that we can be respectful of each other and model that to the kids," said Superintendent Shannon Snow.

Marcum says she speaks for a group worried that Alexie's book is just the first wave to hit the town's shoreline.

"If the board is comfortable yanking one book out of the library, and not explaining to the public why, then it makes us very uncomfortable they'll pull other books without explaining why," she said.

On Wednesday night, the board likely will schedule a time and place for a public hearing on the book ban.

The American Library Association has asked the school board to reverse its decision.

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