School trustees vote to find replacement for controversial book

MERIDIAN, Idaho (KBOI) - School trustees decided in a 2-1 vote "to look for a suitable replacement" for a book that drew more than a hundred people to a Meridian school board meeting Tuesday night. The body was mulling over a committee's recommendation to keep "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" as an option on the reading list.

During the public's opportunity to speak, one person called the book "verbal pornography" that "poisons the mind," while others said "Diary" told a story about a boy who finds education is his escape from poverty.

Parent Bonnie Stiles said she counted 133 "filthy words in this book that we do not speak in our home, that I'm sure you do not speak in your homes."

Some of the 50 or so speakers who each had three minutes to address the school board said the book about a young Indian growing up on a reservation has literary merit.

"For a lot of kids, this is the only place that they're (going to) find out that education is an escape from poverty," said Amy Armstrong, a middle school librarian. "It inspires kids from backgrounds of all kinds to reach for goals that seem unattainable."

Superintendent Linda Clark said emails the district received ahead of the meeting appeared to be "evenly distributed" with about half on each side.

"These children came from our wombs," said Sharon Blair, the grandmother who initially complained to the district. "You have them as teachers for a small part of the day. We have them for a lifetime, and I do not want our children exposed to explicit, filthy, racist things."

Some parents at the meeting Tuesday said teachers had been reading the book aloud in class, skipping sections of the book and telling students not to read certain chapters on their own.

Meridian schools say "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie was one of five books sophomores can choose for required reading. The others are "Life of Pi," "The Pearl," "A Walk Across America" and "The House on Mango Street."