Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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

When I first heard about this novel in my Adolescent Literature class I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. My professor had mentioned it a time or two as a point of reference but hadn't seemed as passionate about it as our other novels. Having read such great books in the class I wasn't sure that this book was going to live up to it's predecessors. With those qualms in mind I picked it up yesterday at the library in honor of Banned Books Week [the same reason I decided to reinvent my blog!].

Boy, oh boy, was I surprised.

To quote from the back cover: "Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed."

Keeping in mind that people had tried to get this book banned the issue with this novel was it's profanity, in other words it discussed masturbation and boners. Now keeping in mind that this was a book told from the perspective of a boy I wasn't particularily astonished. Coming from a girl whose read her fair share of Harlequin Blazes I was expecting something a bit more, I mean really, do the people banning books even know what the kids reading them sound like? Masturbation is normal. Boners are normal, if you are a boy that is. Come on people, really? Does this have to be spelled out for you?

As for the novel itself I loved it. Junior was the type of character that had something for everyone. Personally I found myself relating to the excitement that he found in books [Uber literary nerd here!]. Others might relate to his comics, his heritage, his issues with his best friend, basketball, the options are limitless. It's these wide varieties of interest that can be found within the covers of this novel that make it such a great read; because anyone can pick it up, find a point of relatability, and take something away from it.

It was an amusing read that kept me laughing out loud [And I mean it too! I'm not just saying it like most people would in text messages or IMs!] as I followed Junior's story to it's end. The story itself might not be what a reader would expect as a "Native American novel" but I think it does a good job of touching on the racism and stereotypes that are commonly associated with the ethnicity. One could say that Alexie is rather ironic in his portrayal of the characters on the "rez", having them portrayed as larger than life versions of the common misconceptions to show the reader just how ridiculous the ideas truly are.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was my first Sherman Alexie novel and I can guarantee you that it won't be my last. He is a brilliant author who brings the quirks of his characters alive to the reader. I would give this novel five stars [out of five stars!]. I think everyone should head out to their local library or bookstore and give this book a look-see. I'd be willing to bet you'd be glad that you did.

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