Telling the True Story

Tara Goldstein, Contributor

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Books tell stories, and a story is incomplete if parts of it are left out. Most novels include uncomfortable topics and a lot of parents argue against students reading books that discuss these topics. However, including them is essential in telling the true story and portraying the main theme. Including uglier topics in novels is a necessity for illustrating key themes and morals that will help prepare students for the real world.

In the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, strong language and racial slurs are included, but they strongly contribute to the themes of the novel. In the novel the main character, Junior, is honest about his sexuality and confesses private thoughts to the reader in the style of a diary. Although these confessions may seem a bit inappropriate, it helped to characterize Junior and to show the reader that this is part of being human. It showed readers that Junior was a normal teenage boy. This is important in developing a major theme of the book. The book has many themes but one of the more important ones was identity. Junior has an identity crisis, feeling like an Indian part of the time and a white boy other times. Eventually Junior discovers that he doesn’t have to choose and can be both. Struggling with identity is a serious issue many teenagers face. The lesson shown in the book is strong, in that you don’t have to be defined by just one thing. However, the theme is stronger since we’ve seen how Junior is just a normal teenager. His character becomes more relatable and readers can see that if he’s capable of fixing his identity crisis, then so can any other teenager. Another major theme and recurring topic in the novel is alcoholism. On the reservation that Junior lives on everyone drinks, in fact it is quite normal. Towards the end of the book we’re exposed to the problem this alcohol directly causes. Three people that were close to Junior suffered a death due to alcoholism. Junior also says that’s most of the funerals he’s attended have been alcohol related. After seeing how much pain and suffering alcohol causes he vows to never drink. Even though alcohol may be a more challenging topic it portrays an important theme and is important for teaching students about making the right decisions as they grow up. A lot of parents believe students shouldn’t be exposed to the hardships of adulthood, but it can actually help students prepare for the real world. In the article, “Highland Park ISD Suspends Seven Books,” by Melissa Repko, the author of The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls says, ” What I worry is that in order to protect them, we may be taking away the tools they need to protect themselves later on.” Including alcoholism in this book and exposing students to the brutal deaths that follows prepare students for later on in life when they’re tempted to drink. Instead of shielding students away from more complex topics, exposing them at a younger age will help protect them later on. Being aware of the many consequences of alcohol will persuade students to make the right decision.

In the novel, Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, the main character has sexual encounters with a prostitute, but even though it’s mature content it is an important part of the book’s major theme. Towards the beginning of the novel Siddhartha rejects love and believes he’s incapable of truly loving. Siddhartha meets Kamala, who is a prostitute, and wishes to learn the pleasures of love from her. However, Siddhartha still didn’t receive nor give genuine love. Although this topic is mature its important in describing Siddhartha’s journey to eventually find love. Siddhartha doesn’t expect to meet Kamala or to live in the town for so long that he becomes absorbed in riches. Even though Siddhartha didn’t expect this to happen and perhaps made a mistake by living in the town for so long, he was still able to reach enlightenment and wouldn’t have been able to if he didn’t go through these experiences. This teaches students that your journey may not go perfectly and you will make many mistakes, but just like they did for Siddhartha, these mistakes will help lead you to your goal. In the article, “Highland Park ISD Suspends Seven Books,” Jeannette Walls says,” Sometimes you have to walk through the muck to get to the message.” This means that it’s sometimes necessary to include uglier topics in order to clearly illustrate the themes of the novel. Just how in Siddhartha the topic of prostitutes was included in the story but if it was left out Siddhartha’s true journey would be incomplete, and the theme wouldn’t be shown. The sexual encounters between Siddhartha and Kamala is also an important part of the story because they have a baby together. Siddhartha leaves Kamala but is reunited with her and his son later in life. After meeting his son Siddhartha finally feels love. Siddhartha also realizes that along with love comes pain. Once he accepted love, as torturing and painful as it might be, he reached enlightenment. This is also an important theme and lesson that students can take away. The novel shows that love is important. Siddhartha tries to reject love but after he accepted it he was able to not only reach Nirvana, but he was also able to love everything around him. This shows that although love can be painful at times you shouldn’t reject it and instead should embrace it.

Both Siddhartha and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian included mature and complex topics. They were both strong stories that clearly illustrated main themes that will help prepare students for adulthood. Without the use of this mature content the story would’ve been incomplete along with the moral of the story being completely lost.

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