Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

This book, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, was selected as our December read for my young adult literature book club. I wouldn't have picked it on my own. I think I would have been put off by the fact that it is about an adolescent on an Indian reservation. Sounds like a ridiculous reason to be put off, but I guess I just wouldn't select something with that subject matter. However, I am so glad that I took the time to read this book. It was delightful and fun.

I think Ellen Forney's illustrations were significantly beneficial for this novel. They were clever and hilarious and really well done. They added so much to the flavor of the story. This is the tale of a young boy living on an Indian reservation who longs to get free of the burdens of life on the "rez." It reveals the sad reality of the life of poverty many experience in such circumstances. While the novel was heartbreaking at times, it was also laugh-out-loud funny at times. Arnold Spirit is a gifted student drowning in the local school on the reservation, until he decides to travel twenty-two miles to a small town "white" school outside the reservation boundaries. This doesn't go over well with the other Indians in his community. They consider him somewhat of a traitor.

At times the story just seemed to ramble, but it was perfectly fine rambling. The voice of the main character was clear and strong and the reader really gets inside the head of the character (both through the words and the illustrations). It is basically the tale of one year in the life of an Indian boy who considers himself part-Indian, part-white because of his immersion into the new school situation. Throughout the chronicle of the ups and downs of life, trying to balance the two cultures, the main character shines and overcomes adversity. It was a tale worth reading (despite some people's objections because it mentions masturbation, has some sexual comments, and some crude boy humor - didn't bother me at all, since I live with a herd of crude boys).

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