The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and banning books for teens
I started picking my own books, with little to no supervision, by the time I was 11. That’s about when I stopped having any supervision in general, so no big shock there. There were a lot of times I should have had an adult around to lend a hand, but the one area I actually did fine on my own was choosing what to read. Did I make some bad calls? Yes. 12 is probably not the ideal age to read The Godfather or The Wanderers, and don’t even get me started on how damn scary Stephen King can be (at any age).
But in general, I have faith that tweens and teens can figure out what books are right for them and where they are at developmentally, and if they read the “wrong” book, they will still be okay. (Caveat: my cousin Mark read Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, when he was a teen and couldn’t sleep for a month after, so let’s say fiction yes, true, maybe no.)
This has been on my mind for two reasons: 1) hearing that Sherman Alexie’s amazing YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, keeps getting banned and 2) Some local parents in my area recently objected to their 11th graders reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye for a high school class.
Teens do need adult supervision and my parents’ laissez-faire approach to child-rearing was not ideal, but when it comes to teens and fiction, I really believe we should back off and let them find their own way.
Adults, I am curious to hear if you feel otherwise — do you wish someone had stopped you from reading an upsetting book when you were younger? What was it, and why?