Friday, October 5, 2012

Book in Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie



Little, Brown


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.

Why I Read This:

Banned Books Week


Since I read this book for Banned Books Week, I think it makes sense to respond to the criticism and tell you how I feel. So this will feel slightly different from my regular reviews. Here's what Wikipedia says (I know, I know) about why the book has been banned in some schools.

"The novel is controversial for some of its content on issues such as alcohol, poverty, bullying, references to masturbation and physical arousal, as well as for the tragic deaths of characters and the use of profanity. As a result, some schools have banned the book from school libraries or inclusion in curricula."

So I only understand where people are coming from with about half of those criticisms. There are a lot of references to masterbation and boners and it almost feels like those thoughts are put there for shock value. The characters do have foul mouths at times but I honestly didn't find that overwhelming in comparison to all the crude sex references. And they were crude at times but as Junior says,

"Well tough, I'm going to talk about it because EVERYBODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it."

I think that statement says a lot about this book. It says that it's not afraid to tell you how things really are in the world. People get bullied, they die, they have alcholic families, they swear, are poor, and they struggle with the priveledge or poverty of their race. And who tries to ban a book because it talks about poverty? I'm really confused about that one, trying to figure out why poor people are something kids have to be sheltered from.

 I think most importantly this book talks about what it's like to live on a reservation and what's really left for the people there. It's very far from sunshines and rainbows. It is TOUGH. And if people can't look past the moments where Junior is a real boy, who talks about things that real boys might actually think about, although they may be a little overwhelmingly crude at times...well, that's a shame.

I found The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to be an entertaining read. The little drawings added a lot to the story too. That is my biased adult opinion though. I know that when I was a teen I would not have been so comfortable with the sex references. I still do not enjoy the books with sex references and profanity as much as those without, although I do understand more where they are coming from. 

Even so, I think I would have benefitted a lot from all the messages within this book. Even more so, those kids who had a very priveledged, very skewed view of the world. I would have liked them to read this book. There were a lot of meaningful, quoteworthy moments and though I'm not saying everyone should rush out right now and read this book, I think it's an important book and one that should be recognized as such.

My Rating:


I bought my copy.

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