Wednesday, January 9, 2008

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

Did you ever hear the allegory about a bunch of rats trying to escape from the bottom of a barrel? Instead of working together to solve their problem, like banding together to form a pyramid, they would all just keep pulling down any rat that tried to climb out of the barrel. Communities of us humans can act in much the same way - somehow punishing (bullying, making fun of, excluding) anyone who tries to rise above the group in some way. Junior Spirit feels the heavy weight of his community as he starts his freshman year in high school on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junior is fully aware of the problems common on the reservation and in his family - rampant alcoholism, crushing poverty, and the lack of hope for a better life. Junior's spirit rises above the rest, however, when he eagerly opens his geometry book on the first day of school and sees that it is the same one used by his mother when she attended the class thirty years ago! Disgusted and angry by the lack of opportunities on the rez, he determines to attend the better white school despite the fact that he has no reliable transportation to travel the twenty-three miles it takes to get there. Complicating his plans is the fact that the reservation community now considers him a traitor for choosing to live in the white world. Will Junior survive the many strikes against him to "climb out of the barrel?"

This book skyrocketed to the top of many bestselling lists and has won many awards. No surprise - Sherman Alexie's book is Wonderful! - full of laughs and tears on every page. Junior "Spirit" is aptly named, for his indomitable spirit somehow keeps trying to rise above the challenges he's faced since birth. This character feels so real (I kept expecting to look up from the page to see him in the room!); again, no surprise because Alexie has based Junior on his own experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation (See Alexie's bio on his website: The book's humor is enhanced by cartoons that more fully illustrate Junior's trials.

This novel comes Highly Recommended: FIVE out of FIVE stars! Read it SOON!

1 comment:

senorita said...

Laugh out loud funny!!!! This book is well written in diary form that adds a special something to the big issues of a minority teenager in a majority world.