Friday, April 9, 2010

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

"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 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 thought he was destined to live."

Overall: 5/5

The first time I ever heard of this book was actually on Scott Westerfeld's blog, because he was a part of the team that determined which book won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature back in 2007 (this was the winner, in case you didn't notice the giant award on the cover). Then, a few months ago, a friend of mine mentioned the author, Sherman Alexie, and how much respect they have for him and his books. So I thought, why not? and picked it up.

The other thing I feel I should mention is that every year, I go on a week-long trip up to Montana and spend time on the Indian Reservation up there helping out with some local projects. Reading about life on the Rez from Alexie's perspective made me not only completely nostalgic for Montana, but also kind of shocked me because of how much there is going on that white people like myself never see. I mean, I always knew that things on Indian Reservations were pretty bad. I know that they're very poverty-sticken areas and that alcohol is a serious problem. But it just never really hits you until you hear it straight from the horse's mouth.

This book was incredibly heart-wrenching, especially for someone like myself who's had the opportuninty to see a lot of this stuff first-hand. I'm so gald that Alexie has been able to write down this, and other stories that will hopefully help people realize that there are a lot of changes that need to be made in these areas.

But one of the great things about this book is that not once does it give off a woe-is-me vibe. Alexie's not looking for pity here, he's just telling it like it is. And the way he tells it is stinkin' hilarious. I laughed out loud several times while reading this book. The MC Junior has such a great and original way of looking at life, even when things are at thier worst. You just can't help laughing with him even as you're crying for him. I can't help but compare it to Libba Bray's Going Bovine (review here) despite the obvious differences.

And now that I've written pretty much the longest review ever....

Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Ending: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Happy Factor: 5/5
Other books by Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues, Flight, Indian Killer, Ten Little Indians

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