Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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

 Book:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author:  Sherman Alexie
Publisher:  Little, Brown Young Readers
Publication Year:  2007
Genre:  YA Contemporary
Source:  My high school library
My Grade:  A+

With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie's novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation's school -- and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school -- in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems -- all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up.

My Review

This is book #2 out of 25 for my YA lit class!  I chose this book for several reasons.  1)  I need to read books in different genres and 2) It was on the list of required reading for the other section of YA lit being offered this summer.  I also remember Stephenie Meyer recommending it (and I’m a nut for anything Twilight related!) and it was also on the YALSA list for 2007 or 2008.  So, it sort of seemed like a no-brainer.

I am a no-brainer for not reading this book sooner!  This book was fabulous!  It was hilarious!  Actually, it was funny, poignant, heartwarming and heartbreaking, all at once.  And any book that manages to pull off all of that has to be epic!

I read up on Sherman Alexie after I finished the book and I discovered, as I had suspected, that this book was autobiographical.  Now, I don’t know if that means that everything in the book is exactly like it happened, but the protagonist is apparently a lot like Mr. Alexie.  This just added icing to the cake for me, to think that someone had actually lived this story.

The book is about a young man from the Spokane Indian Reservation who is starting his freshman year in high school.  He has lots of physical disabilities because he was born with encephalitis.  However, he is very intelligent.  He is horrified when, on the first day of school, he is handed a geometry book with his mother’s name in it!  He decides that he deserves better and he opts to leave the reservation school and attend the white school in the neighboring town instead.

Of course, he experiences a multitude of problems and challenges due to this decision.  He is not accepted by the white kids ( “I was the only Indian in the school except for the mascot!”) and he is viewed as a traitor by the kids on the reservation.  Despite all the difficulties, he succeeds and overcomes them while maintaining a giant sense of humor throughout.

Besides having a wicked sense of humor and a fabulous storyline, this book was very enlightening.  In a very light-hearted manner, Alexie manages to address the problems of alcoholism, racism and poverty.  He sheds light on what it really is like to live on the reservation and the cycle of poverty and alcoholism that are almost impossible to escape.  Yet, he also celebrates the strength and tenacity of people in the face of overwhelming odds and tragedy.  Honestly, this book is a celebration of the human spirit and the ability of human beings to rise above what they are dealt in life.

One of the best parts of this book is the author’s voice.  Arnold Spirit Jr. is hysterical!  His self-deprecating humor manages to give balance to what would otherwise be a horribly tragic story.  It is this sense of humor that allows him to persevere and turn this story into one with a happy ending.  I closed the book with satisfaction, knowing that everything would be alright for Junior in the end. 

The illustrations in this book are also a nice touch.  In many ways, it was similar to “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (which was published in the same year), but it was far superior, in my opinion.  I really did not like Diary because the main character had no redeeming qualities.  Junior, however, is just a big bundle of redeeming qualities!  He faces his difficulties with honesty and integrity. 

Honestly, there is not one bad thing that I can say about this book.  After reading it, I understand why it has won the awards that it has and I hope that Mr. Alexie will write more YA books in the future. 

If you are easily offended by discussion of boners and masturbation, then you should not read this book (or spend any time around high school boys, for that matter!).  There is also a good amount of language in this one, but again, it’s about normal for the average adolescent boy in my experience. 

I loved this book and I plan to start recommending to lots of people.  My grade for this book is an A+.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree! I read this book for school during the summer and I absolutely loved it.