Monday, September 8, 2014

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

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is one of those books that some parents find offensive and insist be removed from school reading lists and libraries.  One school (in Stockton, Missouri) banned it altogether for sexual content and inappropriate language.  The same fate befell it in Richland, Washington.  At least Newcastle, Wyoming left it in the library after removing it from the curriculum.  A small victory for a remarkable book.

When Junior gets in trouble at school for throwing a book at one of his teachers, it seems inevitable that he is heading for a lifetime of trouble.  Instead, the teacher does something surprising, urging Junior to leave the reservation school and continue his education off the reservation.  But doing so is not without its complications.  To leave the reservation is considered a betrayal of who and what he is but, with th support of his family, he takes a chance, leaving his only friend behind, daring to see what he might become. 

This novel is one of those rare treasures that is so well written, filled with humor and pain and love and honesty, that it can touch any reader of any age.  It is impossible not to feel a deep sympathy or even empathy for Junior.  The illustrations by Ellen Forney are brilliantly matched to the text, occasionally rough and immature, at other times showing a deeper reflective quality altogether.  The novel is a semi-autobiography, with the author drawing on his own experience and he does a powerful job of sharing every facet of his life—from the most brutal to the most loving—without aggrandizing or accusing anyone, most especially himself. 

The final sentence literally gave me chills.  I can’t remember the last time a book did that to me and I won’t soon forget this charming book.  

6 comments:

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    1. Heather, I really could not praise this book enough. It is just so good. I hope others will read it, including my granddaughter.

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  2. This seems like a really great novel that I am now interested to check out.

    The plight of Aboriginals has always been a highly contested issue here in Canada. Having to endure racial discrimination, the history of residential schools, forced from their land to live on reserves, it's no wonder that these communities are plagued with poverty and misforunate. Aboriginals make up the smallest percent of minorities in Canada and yet, have the highest crime rates and suicides. The treatment of aboriginals has improved over the years but it is still a long way before any significant changes will be made by the government to offer compensation for past wrongdoings or to improve their living conditions. it seems that these people are better pushed under the rug and forgotten. It's terrible and heart-breaking.

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    1. Jason C, The remarkable thing about this novel is that it shows all of the effects of institutionalize racism while still leaving room for hope. As desperate as things get at times, there is still humor and joy throughout the book.

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  3. This has been on my reading list for awhile. Sounds like it is time I read it.

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    1. SWG, This one can easily be read in a single sitting. In fact, it's almost impossible to put down.

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