Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of Pure Ignorance

I read the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in one sitting! I was so absorbed in the story and the graphics of this novel. I haven’t been exposed to history about Native Americans so this was an eye-opening and a very sad smack in the face. This part fiction part autobiography part graphic novel had me laughing, crying and furious within the first few pages. It was so emotional and enrapturing. To read such a sad story and learn about some of the ignorance that people had towards Junior was heart breaking.

Of course, not to my surprise, Alexie’s response to Gurdon’s article had me huffing and puffing just as much as his novel, so much that I’m not even sure where to begin! I felt that Gordon was speaking one-sidedly about the issue of vulgar and inappropriate literature. Gurdon failed to realize the truth that these novels bring to the table. All of the issues portrayed; rape, abuse, drugs etc. are part of some teens’ everyday lives. I feel like to hide this portion of reality is equal to promoting ignorance. I have never come across or even heard of a young adult novel that promotes and glorifies these issues. In fact, most young adult literature that I have come across teach valuable lessons and have respectable themes that show the consequences of these issues and help readers to not chose the wrong path. Gurdon is telling us to dismiss these issues, but ignoring problems won’t make them disappear, they won’t make a teen suffer less, and it won’t bring back the innocence that has already been taken away.

What I appreciated Alexie noting is how these novels help to fight the monsters in teens’ lives. When someone is going through such a rough path all by themselves, it’s nice to have literature to escape to. Alexie also talked about the “seemingly privileged,” a term I defined as those who have not been exposed to the harshness of reality, and those who have not had their “innocence” torn away from them. In class we discussed the possibility of this pertaining to social class. Of course I am a firm believer that money won’t solve your problems. The rich are just as likely to experience tormenting and traumatic events as someone from a lower class.

A question many of us had trouble finding a solution to be whether or not it should be the teacher’s initiative to bring these issues into the classroom. From my own experience, I’d have to say yes. In my family, drugs, alcohol, sex etc. was never talked about. Maybe it had to do with the old fashioned generation my parents came from, but these issues were never brought up. Fortunately, none of us had to ever come across these, but it isn’t to say others won’t. I think teachers should aspire to have their students understand these issues, if not tolerate the students who do come into contact with them. Otherwise, I feel that student’s will grow up ignorant, na├»ve, and oblivious to what can potentially happen to them or around them. We need to teach our student’s to empathize with others instead of ridicule or look down upon them, and creating stereotypes, especially if their parents are in denial or ignoring potential hazards.

In chapter 8, Appleman discusses how minority students are able to understand and learn from literary theory just as well as majority students. Because of their social class, minority students are able to relate more to literature. In fact, many students use their lives to relate to literature, and when controversial literature is taught in the classroom, it can help all students to appreciate their lives and empathize with students who do have to go through these matters. We may not be able to put an end to it, but we can at least come together and give support to those who do experience it.


  1. I'm so glad Alexie's work affected you so strongly, Mabelyn! That's what we book nerds live for, eh? Since you are so passionate about the novel, I'm sure that will infect your students too. I'd be curious to hear how you present the controversy about "protecting kids' innocence" and shielding them from "risky" subjects in literature. Do you believe that students are entitled to be in on that conversation?

  2. In response to your question:

    Absolutely, I think students are entitled to be in the subject of whether or not they need to be protected from "risky" literature. Adults and teachers are quick to put in their two bits on what they believe is "right" or "wrong" and I feel like a lot of times it has to do with THEIR personal upbringings. Meanwhile, these people are forgetting the main reason behind this, THE STUDENTS. They need to keep in mind what, how and why the students want to learn. After all, it is their education. What's right for us isn't necessarily right for everyone else. We should shove our opinions down the students' throats without their consideration and involvement. Teaching should be a democracy.