Saturday, October 2, 2010
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I've heard lots about this book over the last year. It seems to be on all the 'must-read'lists, blogs and other book websites I follow. I finally picked it up this week through the Scholastics order, and I'm really glad I did.
Sherman Alexie writes from the perspective of Junior (otherwise known as Arnold Spirit) a native teenage boy living on the Spokane Indian reservation. Junior is witty, sharp and clever. His voice is so strong and I was really drawn to him and the situations he found himself in. The story starts as Junior makes a tough decision after his first year of high school to go to the all-white high school off the reservation. This decision means that on the reservation he is seen as a traitor by all (especially by his best friend) and at school he is a oddity and he needs to learn a whole new set of rules. Living a half life everywhere really makes it hard on Junior. He finds strength in meeting new people, but also with the support of his family.
Junior is a typical teenage boy- a bit obsessed with girls, gross humor and cartooning. The cartoons throughout the book add another level to the story as Junior is able to express his real thoughts and feelings through his drawings.
This book doesn't hold back on the reality of being a native American. Junior talks with candor about alcoholism, gambling, violence and poverty that people on the reservation face. However, through all of these faults, what is clear is how close the families are and how much love there is.
Once again, there are a few mature spots in the story, however, they are very realistic and I think boys especially will appreciate the honesty and humor in dealing with some embarrassing topics. I think this book should be read and discussed for sure. Many of the issues facing Native American's today may be unfamiliar to kids and there could be some very worthwhile discussions to be had. If I was to read this out loud to a class, I would feel the need to edit just a few sensitive parts in the story, but it certainly wouldn't take away from the theme of the book. It is certainly worth all the hype surrounding it. Older fans of Diary of a Wimpy kid will see many parallels in this book.