Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Though I’m most interested in reading J titles, the Young Adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was suggested to me by too many people to pass up.

Alcoholism, bullying, bigotry, racism, violence, masturbation, bulimia, obscenities – they all show up here in Sherman Alexie’s newest book, guaranteeing that it will be controversial; but yet – the book’s message is positive, funny, real, and not the least bit didactic. Reviews note that the character of Junior is somewhat autobiographical, explaining the protagonist’s honesty and believability. He is part Arnold-part Junior, part White-part Indian, part geek-part athlete, and an endearing mix of part chicken-part warrior. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which is literally and figuratively animated by the hilarious cartoon illustrations of Ellen Forney.

I don’t know if Junior’s views on the nature of Indian life and reservations are widely held within the culture, but I am pleased to see that The Absolutely True Diary… won the inaugural American Indian Youth Literature Award for young adults. Knowing that the title has the blessing of those within the Indian culture is yet another reason to recommend this book. Junior’s ultimate realization that he has a rightful and natural place within many “tribes,” and that each of us must follow our own inner calling, is a fitting end to this coming-of-age novel of a “part-time Indian.”

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