Park Record • Emotions ran high at the Park City School District Board of Education meeting Tuesday when several parents criticized a particular summer reading requirement at Park City High School (PCHS).
PCHS students were required to read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie over the summer, and according to the parents who spoke at the board meeting, it contains “explicit content.”
The book about Native American teenager Arnold Spirit, Jr., details his decision to attend an all-white public high school off the Spokane Indian Reservation. Alexie, a Native American, was raised on the same reservation he writes about in the book.
The semi-autobiographical novel won the 2007 U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, but received criticism for the controversial issues it describes. The provocative content includes alcoholism, bullying, references to masturbation, and use of profanity.
The novel is ranked second on the American Library Association’s list of the 10 most frequently challenged books from 2001 to 2012, and has caused controversy in such states as Georgia, New York and Missouri.
Some Park City parents were concerned about what the reading assignment was teaching their children. When one mother asked her daughter what she learned from the book, the daughter told her that “apparently white people hate Indians, and now I know what masturbation is.”
Kelly Yeates, an English teacher and English Department Co-Chair, believes the controversy could have been avoided if parents had just contacted a department member directly.
“If they had done so, they would have found out immediately that we have alternate offerings,” said Yeates. “They could have read another novel with similar themes talking about culture or the issues of bullying.”
Alternative reading choices were not listed on the paperwork, which Yeates admits was an oversight. That is one correction school officials are making to the paperwork.
Read the full story in the Park Record here.