Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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

Note: This is my last review for 2016.  All the rest of the reviews posted will be from 2017 reads.  Thank you!

"Bestselling author 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 by Ellen Forney 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 was destined to live." 

I had the privilege of teaching this book twice this year-- once to rising eighth grade students at Breakthrough and while I was student teaching in ninth grade.  Twice I was able to enjoy the wacky illustrations that show Junior's life and twice I was able to enjoy the main character's sense of humor and sense of self.

One thing I really like this book is how fearlessly it puts two different cultures together and asks you to really examine them.  I loved being able to talk about rules that exist in different parts of our lives.  For Junior, unspoken rules at home in Wellpinit were different than at the school in Wellpinit which were different that the rules that existed in Reardan, which is a town that is overwhelmingly white.

This book also asked me to look at what gets a person to be in their living situation-- what leads to a family being poor, to not getting a good education, to having certain values, to having a certain lifestyle-- and what can lead a person to break out of the mold that one may or may not be destined for.  To paraphrase something John Green said about other people, this book challenged me to think about people who are different than me in a more complex way.  That's something I've been striving to do in my daily life and in my reading.

Most of the students I read this book with really liked this book.  They liked how relate-able the characters were (even if they didn't completely identify with Junior) and they liked how the story was told (through words and pictures).  Some young people I worked with, especially some of my ninth graders, didn't like that this book felt like a stereotype.  They became very wary about what they were reading.  Some of them didn't like the typical young adult novel cliches of introspection, philosophical findings, and a character reactions.  But as I said, generally my students really liked what they were reading.

I give 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian':
Thanks for Reading!


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