Don't you just love the "Biter Bit" story line? Especially when it involves those who would ban or burn books?
I suspect that for as long as there have been books, there have been small-minded educators, parents, and "concerned citizens" fighting to keep "disturbing" books out of the hands of young people. It almost never ends well for the forces of repression, but rarely with such karmic panache as this past week, in the small town of Meridian, Idaho.
The book in question was Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which the intolerant and tyrannical succeeded in striking from the school district's reading lists. Seems the coming-of-age story of a young Native American struggling to fit into an all-white school was just too painful of an expose of modern American race relations, sexuality, and religion (which is presumably why it won a National Book Award). This is a pattern that has been repeated over and over across the country, only, rather than simply accept it, some of the teens in Meridian fought back. They organized a petition to have the book reinstated, which inspired a fundraiser that managed to collect enough money to buy 350 copies of the book. The plan was to distribute the books at the town's World Book Night, an event organized to put good, readable books into the hands of nonreaders. There were lots of takers--until someone called the cops. That's right: some twisted soul called the cops on kids giving away free books at a book giveaway.
photo by Aja RomanoFortunately, when the cops arrived, they realized they couldn't actually do anything about it. Not only that, but the resultant publicity drew the attention of Hachette, Alexie's publisher, which sent the group another 350 copies of the book to give away free. So the town of Meridian is now awash in this scandalous, provocative little book (written, incidentally, by someone who grew up just across the border from Idaho on the Spokane Indian Reservation), and the book is getting lots of publicity nationwide, inspiring even more people to buy it. Like me.