Saturday, November 23, 2013

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

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Junior Never Gave Up.

For a book battered left and right by controversies, school and institutions banning it from their shelves, it had won some very notable awards since its printing.  I know, that’s enough reason to be intrigued and acquire a copy.

Sherman Alexie himself said that this book is 78% autobiographical, based on his life growing up at the Spokane Reservation in Wellpinit, WA.  He and our lovable narrator, Arnold Spirit Jr., shares a lot in common, from being born with hydrocephalus to being a Reardan star basketball player once.

Life in the reservation was difficult.  Arnold and his family barely have anything, even food.  And it’s even more difficult when  being bullied all the time.  Both of his parents are alcoholic; his sister suffers from social withdrawal and locks herself in the basement.  But real trouble begins when Arnold chose to transfer to Readan High, a school 22 miles away from the reservation, mostly attended by white students. Most Indians branded him as traitor, including his best friend, Rowdy.  Caught between two cultures, Arnold decided to forge alliances that are most beneficial to his dream, while ever reaching out to his tribesmen.

“You should approach each book -- you should approach life -- with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point.”

The author managed to make the narration light and funny.  The characters were fleshed out nicely and very engaging. I realize that some languages may discourage conservative readers, but I thought it was vital in consistency with the character.  The fact that it tried to be truthful to its core made it more agreeable.

Alexie had a very distinctive depiction of the reservation life, culture and environment.  In his words, it is a place of both beauty and poverty. Like every place though, conflicts and indecision regarding change is constant.  And hopelessness is the plague eating up their society. 

“My school and my tribe are so poor and sad that we have to study from the same dang books our parents studied from. That is absolutely the saddest thing in the world.” 

 Arnold is a poor Indian boy living in a poor Indian reservation wherein alcoholism and abuse are rampant. But Arnold has hope as well. He is fighting the racial belief that all reservation Indians are meant to fail.  He tried to find hope in others and decided to change things for himself.  It wasn't easy, nothing was easy, but he chose possibilities instead of dejection.

“I suddenly understood that if every moment of a book should be taken seriously, then every moment of a life should be taken seriously as well.”

I recommend this novel because I truly believe that stories of Hope are important, especially for the youth.  They should be taught not to give into despair, not to stop moving, and believe that change do happen if we work for it.  

Book Details: 
Author:  Sherman Alexie
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  September 12th 2007
Genre:  YA, Coming-of-Age, Multi-Cultural
Source: Purchased
Rating:  ★★★★


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