Hi dear friends!
I told you some weeks ago that I was a member of a book club: The Banned Book Club.
I’ve been invited to join this group of fantastic ladies (yes no man so far…what are you waiting for???).
What is it about?
“The Banned Book Club is for readers who don’t stand for censorship and believe in intellectual freedom. In this book club, we’ll be reading one challenged book per month.”
This is a monthly meme hosted by Shruti on This is Lit.
You can join us and find more info here -> https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/19330724-what-is-the-banned-book-club
Our May’s read was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
This book has been banned due to Sherman Alexie’s personal behavior (see below).
Our club’s graphic courtesy of Shruti...
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.
I did not want my read to be tainted by controversial behavior so I chose not to read anything pertaining to the author before finishing my read and review. Yes I think personal behavior from authors can influence my rating and my reading enjoyment. See the discussion below.
The Absolute True Diary was not a read that I liked but it was enlightening. I read it like I read school’s assignments years ago.
The writing style with short and down to earth sentences took me some time to get used to but I know other club members loved that style precisely.
When I began reading about Junior’s life in the Rez (Indian reservation) his birth with all his problems, his physical appearance that was so strange as a kid, his drunk father, his former drunk mother, his sister living in their basement, etc. I was all “OMG! That’s so cliché! It’s really overdone.”
It annoyed me honestly as I thought that the author was overdoing it.
He was not some “white” people writing a travesty of Indians lives on the reservation.
And that made a big difference.
Because either the author thought we were dumb people ready to believe all these clichés either the author who lived in one of these reservations portrayed a really sad but nonetheless true reality.
I still don’t know what the truth is.
Is he mocking us readers? Or is he really honest and we should all demonstrate to stop all this and give Natives a better chance?
Junior is smart in spite of all the problems affecting his brain. He will choose to move to a school outside of the reservation. As a weaker Indian due to all his problems and weirdness he’s always been bullied on the reservation. His only friend is suffering from anger issues and has always defended Junior but Junior is hopeless in the reservation. Like all Native people living in the reservation are hopeless.
At one point in the book he tells that in thirteen years he has attended forty-two burials. It says all about the poor living quality on Indians in these reservations.
Escaping and attending a “white people” school will give him better tools to break the circle and get a brighter future.
That’s when he becomes part time Indian.
At school he is seem as an Indian. In the reservation he is seen as white people. Never fitting in, always standing out.
This problem is common occurrence among migrants and kids with another skin color.
You might be born among “white people” wherever in the world if you have another skin color you are often considered as an outsider, as a stranger all your life. And if you go back to your ancestor’s land you are seen as a traitor, someone whiter than “they”.
The author has a very dry and sarcastic humor.
After getting used to it I fell into the pace of the story and it felt less like a “chore” and rather like a “sadly humoristic reportage”.
I won’t rate this book as I did not really enjoy it but I’m not certain it was really the point.
This is a book broaching many controversial topics. Make up your mind about them. Find what’s truth and what’s lie.
Now I will go read about said Sherman Alexie and see what’s all the fuss about.
Discussion: do author’s behaviors or famous people behavior’s influence your view on their work?
Here is what I gathered about Sherman Alexie:
Several women said Alexie had traded on his literary celebrity to lure them into uncomfortable sexual situations”, with his alleged behaviour “ranging from inappropriate comments both in private and in public, to flirting that veered suddenly into sexual territory, unwanted sexual advances and consensual sexual relations that ended abruptly”.”
This is an excerpt of The Guardian’s article that you can find here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/07/three-women-go-public-with-sherman-alexie-sexual-harassment-allegations
Other sources more or less give the same kind of information.
He has not raped any of these women (well that’s what I found so far) but has been inappropriate and harassed them sexually.
He is not the first celebrity unfortunately to have been found guilty of such behaviors or even worse based on the #MeToo “testimonies”.
How do I feel now towards this read?
Well honestly no differently except that Junior had some very crude comments and views on sex. Granted he was a teenager in the book and many teenage boys have “wet dreams” or are excited (sorry calling a cat a cat here) but the writing style was very blunt and it felt …dirty.
Would have I guessed that the author has been harassing women sexually? No.
But let’s face it: many abusers, rapists or pedophiles are hiding in plain sight and are often esteemed and revered members of the society.
Will it affect my decision to read any other book he has written?
Yes but as this story and the writing style was not really my cup of tea I had already decided that it would be my only read by Sherman Alexie.
In the past year I’ve also witnessed a female writer (let’s call her “K”) being bashed by many in the reading community for a controversial book she wrote. Said book was about taboo relationship but what infuriated me was when another well-known author (“C”) , respected by many, was “all mighty” and began destroying “K”.
Sorry but that I will never accept. Criticize someone’s personal behavior (like sexual harassment) when it’s proven that said person has been found guilty that I can understand. Destroy said person because she wrote a controversial book, sorry but no! These are fictions! Stories coming from the author’s imagination. They are not true. If you don’t like said stories then don’t read them but others could like them. Weird? Maybe but everyone has his or her own personal taste in books and you DO NOT JUDGE someone else’s reading taste. Ever!
“C”’s behavior had a lasting impact on me. Suddenly she was flawed and less perfect. She had a mean streak. And here comes the crux of this story: I am JUDGING “C” for her bashing behavior.
Kind of the serpent eating its tail right?
Anyway now I still read “C”’s work but my reading experience is “tainted” and I have greater expectations than before. I am less forgiving and maybe would grant a lesser rating if said book is not absolutely perfect.
Now let’s chat!
What’s your opinion? Are you influenced in your reading experience and behavior by such controversy? Would you still read the book? Rate it honestly and objectively?
Thanks for reading!
Super interesting. And, my answer is absolutely. It’s like a train wreck . . . sometimes you can’t help but to look. If I see someone being nasty, I won’t support it, although I try to avoid and stay out of all of the rumors and drama and stay in my happy little reading bubble!
Same here Janine but sometimes it’s impossible 🙁
Very intriguing post! I honestly don’t pay too much attention to allegations and he said/she said gossip simply because I’m not one to watch the news or read about gossipy stuff so if I do hear about these authors, actors, etc. bad behavior it’s usually waaay late. And I’d like to think that I could judge a book based on it’s merits alone but I’m human so probably not!
Well Trisy that’s why I chose to read and review before reading anything about the controversy!
Hmm. That’s a very good question. I think *what* the behaviour is may determine me from reading future works. Then again, it may not. I appreciate certain actors’ performances, but dislike them as people for their actions. I haven’t stopped watching older movies they’ve done, but I no longer watch new movies with them in it. I’m just thankful that none of the authors or actors I really like as people have been called out for crass or inappropriate behaviour or beliefs. I think it would devastate me too much. This book here doesn’t seem like something I’d read anyway :/ Not because of the topic, but because I don’t like over-the-top stereotypes, and with this topic, more nonfictionish sources are preference. Like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Ha Julianna I also prefer when authors don’t have offending behaviors or comments. It’s so much more easier to enjoy their books without guilt!
This is such an interesting struggle. Personally, I’ll read whatever I want, regardless of the author’s behavior, but it may have an effect on how I choose to read their work. If I have major moral qualms about an artist, I want to make sure as little of my money ends up in their pocket as possible. I may choose to get something through the library or borrow it from a friend rather than buying a copy myself.
Even making those efforts to minimize my contributions to their livelihood, though, it can be a struggle to take their work at face value and separate it from the author. My biggest example of this is Orson Scott Card. I adore his work, but a few years ago, when I found out about his anti-gay views, it definitely tainted my love for his books. I’ll never be able to read those books again without viewing them through this filter of what I know about him as a person.