Sweet Home, Oregon parents protest ‘Part-Time Indian’

This is a vile piece of trash that we don’t need in our schools.  Please let me know what you think.  Andrew

Plot of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The novel opens with Arnold’s explanations of the fact that he was born with an excess of cerebrospinal fluid in his skull (an event that he describes as being “born with water on the brain“). Arnold is left with many physical problems. Some of these problems are that he is skinny, and has an over-sized head, hands, and feet. He also suffers from poor eyesight, experiences frequent seizures, and lisps and stutters. Mistreated by others on the reservation because of these problems, Arnold is regularly beaten up and given such nicknames as “retard” (for the brain damage that he has sustained) and “globe” (for his large head). His family, like the majority of the other reservation families, is incredibly poor: This point is emphasized when Arnold’s adopted dog Oscar begins to suffer from intense heat exhaustion and Arnold’s father is forced to shoot him to avoid having to pay the expensive veterinary treatment necessary to save him.

Arnold’s life on the reservation is brightened by his friend Rowdy, a “tough kid”, as he is called by Arnold. Rowdy’s father abuses him and his mother, thus they are constantly and noticeably covered in bruises. Despite the hardships that he experiences and his cold, tough attitude, Rowdy stays true to his friend Arnold and tries to protect him from some of the physical abuse he is dealt. On Arnold’s first day of high school, his geometry teacher, Mr. P, hands out textbooks to the students and Arnold realizes that his book has his mother’s maiden name written in it. She was thirty years old when she gave birth to Arnold, thus making the textbook at least thirty years older than Arnold himself. Arnold is angered and saddened by the fact that the Spokane reservation is so poor that it is unable to afford new textbooks for its high school. Because of this, Arnold violently throws the book, which ends up colliding with Mr. P’s face and breaking his nose. The school subsequently suspends Arnold. During Arnold’s suspension, Mr. P meets with Arnold to reveal to him his sister’s dream to be a romance writer, he is not angry with him, and that “You [Arnold] have to leave this reservation”.

A week into the school year, Arnold transfers to Reardan High School, a school full of kids with a lot of money in the countryside. Arnold is the only Indian at Reardan besides the team mascot.[2] Although Arnold’s mother is an ex-drunk, his father a drunk, and they are poor, they still want him to transfer to Reardan. Arnold starts to have a crush on the school’s most popular white girl, Penelope, and makes friends with a smart student named Gordy. Arnold tries to talk to Rowdy about his crush on Penelope, but their relationship is strained by Arnold’s decision to go to Reardan. In contrast, Arnold and Penelope develop a closer relationship. Arnold makes the Reardan varsity basketball team and plays two games against his former school, Wellpinit, and specifically Rowdy. During their first game, Wellpinit wins after Rowdy elbows Arnold in the head and knocks him unconscious. In their second meeting, Reardan wins and Arnold gets to block Rowdy. Arnold believed he wanted to win, but after seeing the Wellpinit players’ faces after their defeat, he cries and feels ashamed of himself. Throughout the novel, Arnold is struck by many tragedies: his grandmother is run over by a drunk driver, Gerald, while walking home from a powwow, his father’s best friend Eugene is shot in the face by his friend Bobby after fighting over the last drink of alcohol, and his newlywed sister and her husband die when their mobile home is accidentally set on fire after a night of heavy drinking. In the end, Arnold and Rowdy reconcile while playing basketball and resolve to correspond no matter where the future takes them.

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Debate in Sweet Home, Oregon

From the Albany Democrat-Herald

SWEET HOME — A controversial young adult novel may be up for removal from eighth-grade English classes at Sweet Home Junior High, depending on the recommendation of a review committee.

The Sweet Home School Board is holding a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the district office to appoint community members to a “Reconsideration of Instructional Materials” committee for the novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Board members will vote whether to accept the committee’s recommendation.

Superintendent Don Schrader said he hopes to have the committee’s recommendation on the material by Feb. 10, the board’s next regular meeting.

The largely autobiographical novel by Native American author Sherman Alexie details the experiences of Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a 14-year-old who becomes the only Indian at an all-white school.

The 2007 novel has received numerous awards, but also has been banned in places for racist and profane statements made by some of the characters, and discussion of sex, abuse and alcoholism.

Schrader said language arts teachers Chelsea Gagner and Brian Gold first introduced the book a year ago. Some parents complained, which prompted him to pull the book because he felt due process hadn’t been followed.

This year, Schrader said, three weeks ahead of the study unit, the teachers sent out permission slips with a packet of information about the book. The packet included a summary of the controversial material and testimonials from last year’s students.

They received 157 forms from parents who gave permission and 13 forms from parents asking for alternate material for their particular students.

Read more at the Albany Democrat-Herald

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