The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Summary from Goodreads:

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I was largely unaware of the existence of Indian Reservations and the terrible amount of societal restrictions they have to live with. It's the 21st century but it feels like we are back in 1920s for all it matters. That's why I am terribly grateful when I get to read books like this. I think Sherman Alexie has the uncanny ability to present the stark reality of poverty, racial discrimination and abuse experienced by a Native American as it is, while tempering (not downplaying) the pain and darkness with humor. This book is written like a diary peppered with funny drawings, so there is that feeling of intimacy. You feel like you get right up there inside Junior's brain and heart, and that makes the emotions all the more hard-hitting when it comes.

Junior, the protagonist, exhibits a certain pluck that is surprising for someone whose life is composed of one tragedy after another. He has a tremendous amount of spirit and hope. I remember saying after reading this book that it feels like I just did some crowd surfing. Like a hundred people just lifted me up. Yeah the world is a dark and scary place for the most part, but there patches of light here and there.  I think I can say that the majority of my middle grade and YA reads I get nasty kids and even nastier adults. School bullies, abusive parents, domineering teachers. They do have them in this book, but Sherman Alexie shows that not all humans are terrible. Not all white people harbor KKK tendencies. Not all Native Americans are alcoholics or tree huggers. I think Sherman Alexie exposes the human tendency to box people in, to limit them. When people shouldn't really be defined by their race, or class, or illness or addictions. Sometimes they do disappear beneath the booze and the drugs and the paranoia that it takes a little more effort to find the real person in there. But by Junior's example, it is always worth the effort. There can be good in everyone. Junior's father in particular is a man who has tendencies to spend the little they have left on the nearest bar. But he is a good father who loves his family, and he always makes it a point to take care of them. On the other end of the spectrum Alexie doesn't candy coat the destructiveness of alcoholism. He covers the yin and yang of it, so to speak. 

I was a little bit taken aback to find that this book has been banned in several schools. In fact, it's the most banned and challenged book last year. I am guessing it's a word or a scene taken out of context here and there (0r the fact that we sometimes just don't give children a lot of credit). But really this book emits nothing but positivity in my opinion. It's about persevering in the face of adversity! It's about standing up against racism! It's about breaking down cultural barriers! I am pretty sure it was the word "boner" that caused the School Board lynch mob to break out the pitchfork and tar. Ha. As much as there are dissenters, there are also many defenders who were responsible for the book being reinstated in several school curriculum. And if I were Oprah, I'd go around handing out this book, yelling: "You get this book!" "You get this book!" Yeah. That's how powerful (and entertaining) I think it is.

Comments

  1. Here imagining you on stage like Oprah... and I just lost it! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mommy L, it's my life long dream to be Lady O! Tee hee! :)

      Delete

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