Tuesday, 3 January 2012

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

This is a unique book about an issue that’s not commonly talked about. Parts are hilarious, parts are illuminating, and parts are so profound you want to just sit there and think about it before you continue reading.

Junior lives on a 'rez' for Spokane Indians. He was born with ‘water on the brain’, some very complicated medical thing that I don’t really want to explain right now. What it means is that he stutters, has a massive head, and has to wear big glasses. Needless to say, he gets bullied. A lot. He gets beaten up quite often- but the rez community is pretty brutal like that. Many are alcoholics and druggies, and they’re all very poor. After Junior moves to a ‘white’ school, his prospects begin to brighten. However, there are still many problems in his life. Like Rowdy, his best friend from the reserve, who refuses to talk to him after he changes schools. And Penelope, a white girl who he’s hopelessly in love with- but she may not be as perfect as he thinks she is. Not to mention his family. His sister lives in the basement writing novels and his uncle is an alcoholic.

As you can probably tell, this book is chock full of discussion topics. Racism, friendship, alcohol addiction, bullying, First Nations people and poverty, with a touch of bulimia thrown in just to spice things up. But the narrator’s voice is just so funny (and at times, unbelievably dirty) that you can’t help but grow to care for him. He tells the story in a ‘hey, guess what happened today’ kind of voice- friendly, open, and honest. He describes all the details of his sometimes miserable life without moping about it; he says it in a matter-of-fact way and leaves the reader to go ‘oh, that’s awful’. The illustrations in this book are fun and give it a less formal kind of feel, kind of like- well- a diary.

So. Writing style and voice: check. Discussion topics: check. Pacing and interest level: check. Memorableness (and yes I know that’s not technically a word): triple check.

A fascinating and eye-opening, yet lighthearted, read. 

If you loved this book, you'll like:

Ooh, this is pretty tough. But:

Swim the Fly (and series) by Don Calame
Paper Towns by John Green
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

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