An award-winning novel has been dropped from a Queens’s public school reading list because parents deemed the book too racy for their sixth grade students.
The dropped book is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Incoming sixth graders at Public School/Middle School 114 in Queens were assigned to read the book and write a graded essay on it over the summer. But when several parents saw excerpts from the book talking about masturbation, they pressured the school to scratch the book off the list.
“It’s about . . . masturbation — which is not appropriate for my child to learn at 11,” said parent Kelly-Ann McMullan-Preiss. “It was like fifty shades of gray for kids.”
Here’s an excerpt from the book that could understandably concern some parents:
“Yep, that’s right, I admit that I masturbate. I’m proud of it. I’m good at it. I’m ambidextrous. If there were a Professional Masturbators League, I’d get drafted number one and make millions of dollars. And maybe you’re thinking ‘Well you really shouldn’t be talking about masturbation in public,’ Well, tough. I’m going to talk about it because EVERYBODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it.”
Queens Parent Teacher Association Co-President Iren Dougherty said that eight parents had planned to boycott the book.
“Not every child is emotionally mature enough at 11 years of age to handle this content,” Dougherty said. “It really should be a parent’s decision how much information is given to their children.”
The book, about a Native American who transfers to an all-white high school, won the 2007 National Book Foundation award for Young People’s Literature. But despite the accolade, the Queens school isn’t the first to take the book out of the classroom. Schools in Mississippi, Washington, and Oregon have done so as well.