Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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

This is from the back cover:

Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed.

Inspired by this own experiences growing up, award winning author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live.

This book is about stepping out of your comfort zone in order to achieve your dreams. It's about going against popular opinion and taking control of one's destiny. Junior is the first to leave his reservation. An extremely bright and intelligent student, Junior is frustrated by the current education he receives on his rez. After all, he discovers he is studying from the same text books which his mother once studied from. So, in one witty (yet courageous) moment, Junior decides to seek better education outside of of his rez, or in the "white-world."

His reservation doesn't take this decision lightly. He is chastised and criticized for being a traitor. He even loses his best friend, Rowdy. In hindsight, Junior feels he doesn't fit in anywhere; he no longer fits in on the rez and, at first, he isn't accepted by his new white friends either. This book touches on controversial topics such as racism, sexual connotations, alcoholism, poverty, and death. It also emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and family. There is some language and sexual references, but overall, this book is fantastic! I really enjoyed Alexie's writing style and found this novel to be comical. This is the second time I have read it. I would recommend it to high school students or "mature" middle graders because of the sexual connotations.

Lingering Thoughts:
There were so many important life lessons in this book. One of the most touching moments in the novel to me was when Junior's coach is trying to convince Junior that he can take on his former basketball team.
"I can do it," Junior said to his Coach, his teammates, to the world.
"You can do it," Coach said.
"I can do it."
"You can do it."
"I can do it."
"[Junior is thinking] Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It's one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they're the four hugest words in the world when they are put together."

I really enjoyed that Alexie chose to portray the image of supportive parents, because so many young adolescent novels do not. I believe students will enjoy the drawings through out the novel. I believe they really add character to the novel and to Junior. Here is an example you would find:

Check out the author's website here!

You can buy the book or take a peak at the first few pages here.