Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Quick Review: 5 stars
Review: In my effort to read the banned books of my time I picked up Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary. It has been getting a lot of press lately with parents trying to get it pulled from school. What interests me the most is the book is usually on the optional reading lists at the schools, yet these busy body parents feel it is their duties to control other parent’s kids instead of just managing their own.
Anyways, Junior is a slightly awkward Indian growing up on the rez and going to the rez school. Being quite intelligent he is without challenge at the school, and in his life, but goes along because that is just what Indians are supposed to do. Get along to get along. The tenuous balance is upset when he gets his new math book and realizes it is the same math book his mother used in school; literally the same book. He decides that enough is enough and he breaks free of his cultural prison and starts attending the local public school 20 miles down the road. An all white (i.e. Indian free) school.
What follows details how a community overcomes its prejudices in accepting an outsider, and more importantly how an outsider gives up his prejudices too. Also he must confront his past when he is considered a traitor to his race, his people. Alexie tells a powerful story of how we passively accept the roles assigned to us from birth and never realize our true potential. For Junior that is to be an Indian on the rez, but the concept is true for all of us. What is holding us back? Is it uncool to do well in school? To try? Or to do math or science as a girl? To be friends with the socially awkward kids? To be nice?
This is a fantastic book for the preteen Middle School age kid to read. It will help them in their transition into adulthood right at the time when they should be questioning what their role in life will be. So why do certain parents hate it so? The best I can figure are the following three things:
1. He mentions he likes to masturbate (go figure – a teen boy who masturbates)
2. He occasionally swears.
3. And this is the kicker, after he has been disowned by his best friend and community, and lost several important family members in rapid succession due to alcohol; he becomes very angry at God. In doing so he draws a cartoon in which allusions to Jesus farting is made.
Based on what is just a few sentences in a phenomenal book you have some whack jobs trying to get it banned as if it was a guidebook to becoming a profane, masturbating Satanist. Can’t have the kids reading that. Of course people who make this argument have never actually read the Bible because all that and worse is found in its pages.
Why Did I Read It?: I would like to say I did it because it is a National Book Award Winner (2007) but t hat would be untrue. I read it because people were trying to ban it. As with all these sort of books I found these concerns to be unfounded.
Where Did I get it?: My Local Library
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Synopsis: In his first book for young adults, 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 acclaimed artist 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
FYI: Study Notes
Author: Sherman Alexie is the author of twenty-two books, including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, winner of the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, War Dances, winner of the 2010 PEN Faulkner Award, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, a PEN Hemingway Special Citation winner. He is also the winner of the 2001 PEN Malamud Award for Excellence in the Art of the Short Story. Smoke Signals, the film he wrote and co-produced, won the Audience Award and Filmmakers' Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. He lives with his family in Seattle, Washington.