Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian


 "If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning. But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it. If I draw a cartoon of a flower, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, 'That's a flower.' So I draw because I want to talk to the world. And I want the world to pay attention to me." [excerpt from The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian]


The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Little Brown, 2007
Fiction (YA); 240 pgs


In 2010, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian was banned from the school library by the Stockton Board in Missouri after a parent complained about objectionable content.  In recent years, other school districts banned or attempted to ban the book from curriculum for the author's use of foul, racist language and the descriptions of sexual acts.  By focusing on those issues, the people fail to recognize the insight this book has to offer--both for us as individuals but also as a society.  

The main character is a Native American, poor and with a family history of alcoholism.  Life on the reservation is far from ideal.  Junior was born with major health problems that followed him into childhood.  He is picked on and bullied by his classmates and other Native Americans in his tribe.  He knows all about prejudice and discrimination--so yes, you'll find talk about racism and such in the book.  

As for the sexual acts . . . He's a teenage boy.  He masturbates.  So what?  Don't most teenage boys masturbate?  Let's stop making our boys feel bad for doing something normal and pretending it doesn't happen.  Same goes for foul language.  Frankly, I don't recall a lot of that in the book, but then I tend to be immune to a small amount of cursing in books.

From the Publisher:
In his first book for young adults, 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 acclaimed artist 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.
Have you ever been reading and are so lost in a book that you forget you are reading?  That happened to me with Sherman Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian.  I got completely wrapped up in Junior’s narrative.  The writing is brilliant; the author capturing the voice of his teenage protagonist so well.  The book was both humorous and sad, touching on several very serious issues, including poverty, alcoholism, bullying, prejudice.  It was also a story about love, friendship, family, and self-discovery.

Ellen Forney’s artwork complemented the book perfectly, not only fitting in with the text but also drawing out the character of Junior more.   Alexie’s book is a book I think many people can identify with on some level.  His writing is frank and yet thoughtful. 

The portion of the book that stood out most for me was Junior’s struggle to fit in and the loneliness he felt.  These were issues I could identify with—issues I think most of us can identify with.  Junior had it particularly rough because he was straddling two different cultures, neither one fully willing to accept him initially.  Add to that the contrast between the two.   Even despite the cards Junior had been dealt in life, he had courage and strength. I don’t think he ever really realized that.   I thought he was a pretty amazing young man.

This really is a book you have to read yourself to get the full effect of. 

Rating: * (Very Good +)

You can learn more about Sherman Alexie and his books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book for my own personal pleasure. 

See what others are reading or have to say about Banned Book Week this week! 



© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty.  All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

30 comments:

  1. I thought this book was outstanding too. Some people just don't get the fact that books like this can spark wonderful conversations.

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    1. Kathy - So true! Books like this are great discussion builders.

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  2. I've seen this around but haven't read it yet. Your description makes me want to check it out.

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  3. This is one of my all time favorite books-I just did a post on an amazing essay he wrote called Why The Best Children's Books Are Written In Blood. This man blows me away. I just love him. Have a great week.

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    1. Tammy - I will have to check out the essay you mention. It sounds wonderful.

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  4. I didn't really enjoy this novel. But that totally beside the point. At least I was given the chance to form that opinion. The fact that it has been banned anywhere is repulsive. I may not have liked it, but there's going to be a million other readers that might get something out of it and it's sad that some people want to deny others that right.

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    1. Ryan - Well put. Regardless of whether we as individuals liked a book or not, we shouldn't limit others' access to the book. You never know what book will speak to which reader.

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    1. Jennifer - I hope you can find it at your library!

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  6. Aarti convinced me to read this, and then Kathy gifted it to me, and I actually can't wait to read it. It saddens me that some people out there want to ban this book. I've heard it's a tremendous read, and it makes me so full of anger that a group of people that I don't even know want to tell me what my kids can and can't read.

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    1. Heather (Zibilee) - It makes me angry too. I hope you like it when you do read it.

      I would like to think I will be open to allowing my daughter to read what she wants to read as she grows up just as my parents did with me.

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  7. Not a book I've read but I agree with you completely.

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    1. Tracy (Petty) - I understand why someone might be offended by certain books on a personal level, but I don't understand why a person would want to dictate what others should and shouldn't read (at least not in terms of it being a good reason).

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  8. My son Marcus told me to read this book several years ago and I'm glad that I did. I loved it then and love it today. I do have it on my school's library shelves. I only allow 8th graders to check it out and anyone else who wants to read it has to get a permission slip signed. But I would gladly lose my job before I let them remove that book from the shelf. I did have an 8th grader who was being stupid in class about some of the pictures and masturbation. His teacher told me about it and so I called him out on it. I told him that if he wasn't mature enough to read it then turn it in, but I wouldn't allow him to draw negative attention to a book that is such a worthwhile read. He sobered up pretty quickly and realized that I was dead serious. Banning any book is just WRONG!

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    1. Staci - I am glad you put that student in his place. While he was behaving as I'm sure many his age might (even if unacceptable), it's a good lesson in how our actions may have unforseen consequences.

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  9. Banned because a teenaged boy masturbates? Heck, in a story where the author is trying to expose young people to other cultures, you've got to find a way to make the reader relate. What better way?

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    1. Lisa - I agree! The reasons for challenging a book like this and many like it are often so focused on minor details it misses the overall message and point of the book.

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  10. I've never read this book before but I'm sure there are many teens who can identify with feeling like an outsider even within their own community.

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    1. DaenelT - Yes, I agree. I felt this book did a good job of expanding on the idea of what a community is as well--that we are more than just the color of our skin, the sport we play, etc. I found it inspiring, really.

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  11. Now here's a book that I've been wanting to read. So many of them, unfortunately. :( I'll certainly get to this one soonish, though! Thanks for the review!

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    1. Rachel - I know what you mean. So many books, so little time . . . I do hope you are able to make time for this one soon!

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  12. GAH! I thought I commented here an see I have not! I LOVED this book when I read and reviewed it. Thank you for sharing it again... more readers! More readers! :)

    Thanks for being apart of banned book week!

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    1. Sheila - I am so glad I took a chance on it. I might not have had you not hosted Banned Book Week!

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  13. I fell completely in love with this book. It really made me a huge Sherman Alexie fan girl and I think was the impetus for my great interest now in Native American history and literature. Fantastic story!

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    1. Aarti - Right?! Sherman Alexie did a wonderful job with the book. I'm actually tempted to read some of his poetry now . . .

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  14. I loved this one so much. I listened to the audio in 2009 on a car trip with Jason and it remains the one audio books Jason wants to listen to again. Alexie reads it himself and he is Junior, highly recommended when you want to revisit the story.
    http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/the-absolutely-true-diary-of-a-part-time-indian-by-sherman-alexie/

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    1. Stacy - I can imagine the audio version is well worth listening to. Especially being read by the author. I will have to look for it on audible.com! Thanks for sharing your review!

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  15. I'm definitely going to download this book after reading your excellent review. I'm always looking for good YA novels even though I'm not teaching anymore. Thanks!

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