High school junior Brady Kissel holding a copy of Sherman Alexie's 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.'

Idaho Students Get 700 Free Copies of Challenged Sherman Alexie Book


When it comes to banning books, it's the same old story -- tell someone they can't read a text and you'll just make them seek it out.

In Meridian, Idaho, parents succeeded in getting Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian removed from the curriculum of Mountain View High School. The book, published in 2007, won a National Book Award, but has become a frequent target of parents seeking to sanitize their children's reading material because of some language and frank discussion of sexuality. In Meridian, some object to the book as anti-Christian as well.

The book is not "banned" per se, but "challenged" -- it has been taken off the school reading list, but remains on the school library's shelves, pending review.

Stacks of Alexie's book, which was handed out for free on World Book Night.

When Sara Baker, a student at the University of Washington, and her friend Jen Lott, learned that the book had been challenged, they decided to get involved. They started a page at to raise funds to purchase 350 copies of the book, which they planned to distribute for free to Meridian students. The campaign met its goal, and the books were purchased through Rediscovered Books, a bookstore in Boise. Brady Kissel, a junior  at Mountain View, spearheaded the plan to distribute them, and on the evening of April 23 -- World Book Night -- over 225 copies were handed out, and the rest went to Rediscovered Books, where they remained available for free. 

Today, Rediscovered announced on its Facebook page that it had run out of books -- but this isn't over yet. Alexie's publisher (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) donated another 350 copies, which are on their way.

Alexie himself weighed in on the matter, writing in a letter to his publisher, "I am honored by the hundreds of Meridian students who showed incredible passion and courage for books. Mine, yes, but literature in general. And Sara Baker and Jennifer Lott are friggin’ superheroes. If I ever get caught in a fire, I’m calling them." 



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fslafountaine's picture
Submitted by fslafountaine on
Native American parents have a right to determine what their young children read, especially when the book purports to describe Native American culture. In my tribe our culture is a very private matter not be to shared with outsiders, who may misuse it or profit from its sale. Such a book as Sherman Alexie should be read in conjunction with Native American parents to offer guidance and where appropriate parents teaching the tribe's culture.

Pamela Joan Carter
Pamela Joan Carter
Submitted by Pamela Joan Carter on
Awesome....I love Sherman's writing and these two young women are amazing for their efforts to keep a challenged book from being banned. If you haven't read it for yourself, how can you determine if it's appropriate to ban it from high school curriculum? I didn't see them banning Anne Rice novels back when they were first published. And they're downright scandalous. Doesn't mean I don't read them. LOL! But they're scandalous! The thing about Sherman's writing is, sometimes there is offensive language, or a colorful description about...coitus, but it's usually so natural, there's just no other way it could have or should been written. Let American writers write. It's no wonder folks from Europe think we're such prudes. Look at it this way, if folks didn't LIKE sex and kids, do you think that Fundamentalist Mormon leader would even CONSIDER having 85 wives? C'mon. Oh, and Sherman...most of those blonde firefighters that confuse people ARE Mormon or Muslim raised. They USED to be down in Salt Lake City Utah, but too many of them were using the same ID name and number. I'd rather the ladies showed up too, all these darned guys do is sit to see if they can watch the place burn to the ground and get away with taking a policy out on it themselves.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
As a high school librarian, I'm well aware of the controversy some books cause. Librarians speak out strongly against censorship of any kind and we generally celebrate "Banned Book Week" where we URGE students to read these books so they can speak from an INFORMED viewpoint rather than a religious or political viewpoint. Why must people seek to ban art or literature that they don't agree with? It's no surprise that the people who try to ban books are the same ones who want to ban abortion, or to ban the restrictions against putting the ten commandments in public buildings. The solution is simply, but requires an open mind. If you object to a certain book, movie, music or artwork - don't let your children partake. If you're against abortion - don't have one. I don't push my beliefs on you, please don't feel free to push yours on me.