Author : Sherman Alexie Genre : YA No. of Pages : 230 Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Published on: September 12th, 2007 My Rating : ★★★★ / 5
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live. (bleh, don’t you just hate it when the blurb tries to sound like a review? Leave that to the readers, I say)
This book was an unexpectedly enjoyable read for me. Unexpected because a) I know absolutely nothing about the Native Americans, so I had no idea what to expect. b) this book was banned for its sexual content and language in America so naturally, I had to be wary.
This book has no fixed plot; it follows the life of a Spokane Indian boy Arnold Spirit aka Junior who was born with a congenital brain condition which alters his appearance (he has a bigger head and feet than the average kid) drawing ridicule from his schoolmates and people in his own reservation. What Arnold wants the most is get out of his reservation and go to another school which happens to be an all-white school so he is forced to get head-on with racial hatred every single day. This book talks candidly about alcoholism and extreme poverty in the Native American community. It talks about racism in such an open way only a 15-year-old boy could. Such serious topics are handled in a heart-warming, funny way and the reading experience is enhanced by the little cartoons drawn by Arnold that appear throughout the book. I found Arnold’s voice relatable despite our cultural differences and him being a decade younger than me.
The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.
There wasn’t much I didn’t like, except that through Arnold’s narration, the book read more like an MG book than a YA one. I wonder if that’s why the language got called ‘explicit’? 😀 there was nothing so explicit about it if you ask me. YA readers would know how YA protagonists get way more action these days 😂
One more thing, I feel like the topics dealt with in this book were moving and powerful, however, the characters didn’t leave a lingering impression on me. I can’t really put a finger on why.
Now, one can’t really talk about this book without talking about the author Sherman Alexie who is a known sexual offender. Like Shruti @thisislitblog queries, is it okay to like the work of a despicable human like him? can we separate the art from the artist?
I’m going to swallow my guilt and say yes. I used to believe a writer’s work is an extension of their true selves; this may be true in some cases but it’s also a severely flawed logic. because by that logic, writers who write crime novels and abhorrent serial killer characters are secretly psychopaths (I know…it is not a pleasant thought) so this time I’m going to allow myself to like this book but I’m not likely to read any backlist or frontlist books of this author’s and support him.
I read this book as a part of the Banned Book Club which is a meme hosted by Shruti @thisislitblog where we read one historically challenged book a month. We support free speech and fight censorship every chance we get. Join our Goodreads group and get in touch with Shruti if you would like to join our Twitter group chat!