Sunday, October 16, 2011

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

Genre:  YA Coming of Age

Description (taken from Amazon's review):
Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork with a decent jumpshot, spends his time lamenting life on the "poor-ass" Spokane Indian reservation, drawing cartoons (which accompany, and often provide more insight than, the narrative), and, along with his aptly named pal Rowdy, laughing those laughs over anything and nothing that affix best friends so intricately together. When a teacher pleads with Arnold to want more, to escape the hopelessness of the rez, Arnold switches to a rich white school and immediately becomes as much an outcast in his own community as he is a curiosity in his new one. He weathers the typical teenage indignations and triumphs like a champ but soon faces far more trying ordeals as his home life begins to crumble and decay amidst the suffocating mire of alcoholism on the reservation. Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt. A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure. Younger teens looking for the strength to lift themselves out of rough situations would do well to start here.

This book definitely touches on the differences between growing up on a reservation and not growing up on a reservation, between being Native American and not being Native American.  But I definitely think this book has more to it than just that, and it is definitely a coming of age book.  Junior inspires us to hold on to our traditional values (whatever they may be) and to still reach out with the belief that there is something better out there for us.

Side note about the author, he wrote the screenplay for Smoke Signals.  If you haven't seen this movie, I recommend you go see it (or at least look into it).

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