Sunday, September 21, 2008

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

Arnold, also known as Junior, is poor. He was also born with an array of mental health problems. None of this really gets in his way though, because Arnold refuses to let all the crap in his life get him down. Like the fact that he is Indian and life on the reservation seems to be made to make sure he never survives. There is also the fact that his best friend is always angry and punching things, even Arnold. Also, his sister has turned into a hermit and is living in the basement. Or the fact that everyone he knows seems to be an alcoholic--a bad one. All of these things, coupled with many other hardships that Arnold needs to deal with on the rez, finally breaks him when he realizes that his school books are older than his mom. He loses it. Mainly because he knows that if he is ever to break the cycle of death, anger, and just being broke he needs to leave the rez. And this is the hardest decision for an Indian to ever make. How will Arnold survive when he is not accepted by the white man, yet shunned by his own people as well, just for wanting to better his life?

It has been a long time since a book has made me crack up at the same time as making me feel as though I should shed a tear or two. You really feel for Arnold and root for him to win; yet you feel so bad that this type of decision even needs to be made. It almost makes you feel...wrong about how things can go uncorrected for so long in a countries history. The matter-of-fact language used is realistic compared to how high school students currently speak. The book also contains drawings made by Arnold to visually explain certain things, and they are hilarious; they fit in perfectly with the story. This was an amazingly quick read, because I did not want to put it down at all. This book is highly recommended and can be used to appreciate other cultures and ways of life. The author, who is Indian, has stated that this was partially based on his life; something to know as you are reading this tale. A lesson without seeming like one, this book teaches many things, and you won't even realize that you're learning something because it is just that good!
Gr. 7-10