A stack of books that have been challenged in school districts.
Wichita Public Library is hosting Banned Books Week to promote books that have been banned and challenged. (Zach Bauman/The Beacon)

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Banned Books Week is coming back to Wichita Sept. 18-24 thanks to the Wichita Public Library, which is highlighting books that get challenged in schools. One event the library is having centers around the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” On Friday, Sept. 23, the library will host a special live version of the library’s podcast “Read. Return. Repeat.” It will feature the author of the book, Sherman Alexie. 

But, why “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” specifically? 

Earlier this year, the book was removed from a teachers selection list in Derby Public Schools and forced to have a “mature” label in the district’s libraries after a grandparent complained that the book wasn’t fit for children. 

“The book had a story that could have been presented in a much more appropriate manner. I felt like I had to be drug waist-deep through horse manure to get the opportunity to ride a horse,” the grandparent wrote in their complaint. 

The novel had previously been approved for ninth grade English classes and had been a part of the Debry district’s collection since 2008. 

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is not alone. “We Are Not From Here” by Jenny Torres Sanchez was also challenged in Derby this year. In Goddard, 29 books were removed from circulation in their school district while they were being reviewed.

A Goddard parent submitted a complaint after their child read “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. The parent included the other 28 books, questioning whether they were appropriate for kids. Ultimately, all of the books were returned to circulation.

In 2017, Wichita Public Schools declined to purchase the book “George/Melissa’s Story” by Alex Gino. Normally USD 259’s libraries purchase books found on the master list provided by the William Allen White Children’s Book Awards Committee, but that year decided to decline buying “George” with the rest of the titles. 

The book focuses on the story of a trans youth who doesn’t know how to tell her family and friends about her identity. Gino and the Wichita Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network provided books to all of the district libraries that had not gotten a copy. 

Want to read a book challenged in the Wichita area for Banned Books Week? 

While no book has been banned outright in the past five years, here is a list of the books challenged in Wichita, Goddard and Derby. Included are links to their listings in the Wichita Public Library’s search catalog including summaries and availability information:

“#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson

“Anger is a Gift” by Mark Oshiro

“Black Girl Unlimited” by Echo Brown

“Blended” by Sharon M. Draper

“Crank” by Ellen Hopkins

“Fences” by August Wilson

“Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel

“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe

“George/Melissa’s Story” by Alex Gino

“Heavy” by Kiese Laymon

“Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison

“Lily and Dunkin” by Donna Gephart

“Living Dead Girl” by Elizabeth Scott

“Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson

“Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez

“Satanism” by Tamara L. Roleff

“The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives” by Dashka Slater

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

“The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” by Heidi W. Durrow

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

“The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel” adapted by Renee Nault

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

“The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood

“They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

“This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson

“This One Summer” (graphic novel) by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

“Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard” by Alex Bertie

“We Are Not From Here” by Jenny Torres Sanchez

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Trace Salzbrenner

Trace Salzbrenner is a community journalist for The Wichita Beacon. Follow him on Twitter @RealTraceAlan.