Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little Brown
Source: Personal Copy
Sherman Alexie has written a book that has really hit home with me. This fast-paced read is one that people of all ages will be able to relate to and appreciate what Alexie has put to paper. Junior, a 14-year-old Native American is struggling with everyday life. He’s an awkward boy and being a teenager doesn’t help, being poor is an added issue, having a disability is one more. Despite his issues, he’s quite intelligent. Despite his despair, he’s quite the humorist. School on the reservation is not up to par, at the beginning of the school year Junior is handed a math book with his mother’s name printed inside. Yes, this is the same book is mother was given many years earlier. Junior soon realizes that it may be time to go to public school off the reservation. Junior aspires to become a cartoonist, he wants to break the cycle of “rez life,” and he has the encouragement of one teacher. When Junior takes a leap of faith and transfers to an all-white top-of-the-line school, twenty miles away, he struggles with the reaction of his new peers, and the ones he left behind. Transportation to school and back every day is not easily accessible, and hiding it from everyone is even harder. Since transferring schools, he now lives between two worlds, both of which he has trouble fitting in. At school he is the Indian boy, at home he is the traitor- too good for his people, and now his best friend has turned his back on him. Junior learns that the world is not his oyster but be can’t lives with despair and hopelessness, he needs to figure out how to deal and cope with a reality that is in front of him.
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” explores many issues that are relevant today, among Natives and non-Natives. At times you will laugh along with Junior’s humor, and other times you will feel your heart break. As a Native American, who has never lived on a reservation, I wholeheartedly understand Junior. I may be on the opposite side of the fence, but I had many of the same struggles trying to identify myself. This story really brings forth the idea of everyone wanting to belong, wanting to be a part of something, but also struggling to be unique and yourself. This book has been banned in many schools and libraries, and I really wonder if those who banned the book have read it. The few squeamish details should easily be overlooked and readers need to look at the whole product. Junior is a 14-year-old-boy and his thoughts are accurate. Sometimes to learn a lesson, you need to step outside your comfort zone, stop hiding behind the minute details and experience the whole package. Junior is such a courageous, inspiring character. I never felt it was too much, Junior is not a sentimental boy, but his voice is strong and determined.
Anyone who has ever dealt with identity concerns will want to adopt Junior, and cheer him on throughout the novel. I will step off my soapbox now, but please give this book a chance! You will not regret it.