Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


I couldn't put this down for long, and it ended up being a wonderful read. It was very reminiscent of 1993 Jules Feiffer's The Man in the Ceiling (Such a good book; if you can track down a copy, you'll really like it and you'll never forget it). Both protagonists are boy misfits who draw cartoons to understand their worlds, surrounded by very few adults who understand what's really happening. ATDofaPTI seems perfect for a middle schooler, maybe seventh or eighth grade, but plenty of adults seem to be enthralled by it too, judging by the rave reviews it's gotten. I can't wait to start another of his books that's been on my shelf for a while: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

Arnold Spirit goes only by Junior when he is on the Spokane reservation, but when he chooses to transfer to a white school off the rez, being called Arnold is only one of the many changes he has to get used to. Everyone wonders how could he betray his people and his best friend by hitchhiking 22 miles to the school everyday. Is it betrayal, or is it escape?

This was well-written but very sad in parts--don't expect a happy-go-lucky kid with a dream in his heart setting off to face the world (and so on)... The tragedies of poverty, violence and alcohol abuse among the community are made real in Alexie's book.

2 comments:

Titianlibrarian said...

p. 40: "And you're a bright and shining star, too," he said. "You're the smartest kid in the school. And I don't want you to fail. I don't want you to fade away. You deserve better."
I didn't feel smart.
"I want you to say it," Mr. P said.
"Say what?"
"I want you to say that you deserve better."
I couldn't say it. It wasn't true. I mean, I wanted to have it better, but I didn't deserve it. I was the kid who threw books at teachers.
"You are a good kid. You deserve the world."
Wow, I wanted to cry. No teacher had ever said anything so nice, so incredibly nice, to me.
"Thank you," I said.
"You're welcome," he said. "Now say it."

Titianlibrarian said...

p. 188: "Coach," I said. "I'm really honored by this. But I don't think I can do it."
He walked over to me, kneeled, and pushed his forehead against mine. Our eyes were, like, an inch apart. I could smell the cigarettes and chocolate on his breath.
"You can do it," Coach said
[...]
Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It's one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they're the four hugest words in the world when they're put together.