The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie fulfills the “Own Voices” category of the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. I’m so glad I read this book.
Most of the story takes place on a Spokane Indian reservation in the state of Washington. It’s a first-person narrative of a fourteen-year-old boy who lives on the “rez” and opts to school elsewhere. The author of the book read the audiobook.
It was perfect.
The tale spoke to me on many levels. For one, it was a story of a fourteen-year-old kid trying to make his way in the world. I have a daughter the same age. I can relate to their struggles on some level. But our poor character Arnold, or Junior as he is called at home, has so much more to deal with than my suburban, white child. The author portrayed his battles beautify and added hope in every act. Kinda made me want my kiddo to just get over it, but that’s now how it works for teens or anyone, really. Anyway, Arnold is a warrior and a hero.
Second, I recently read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas and craved other similar stories. As a former teacher, I cannot think of better books to give our middle school/high school students to read. Novels in their own voices about their own issues that perhaps adults can’t relate to. The book was a great example of the “own voices” genre. And having the author read the story himself added to the tale. His sing-song way of speaking (his words, not mine) put me into the mind of the boy and his culture and troubles.
On doing some research about the novel, I discovered there’s been some controversy over the book. Parents and school districts complain about the sexual content. (I can only assume it’s his reference to masturbation. And please, he’s a fourteen-year-old boy. What do you think he’s doing in the bathroom for so long?) And alcohol abuse. Yes, I understand the stereotype—the drunken Indian. But the man who wrote this book says the story is semi-autobiographical. He’s lived this life, seen these people. We can take him at his word about the alcohol abuse and trust the way he portrays it. It’s a problem and a fact. He did a great job with a tough issue.
Last, I’m glad I read the story because I was so jaded by the book There There. (See my previous review) I felt like a very bad white girl for not liking the book. Mostly that was about the ending. But The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was the tale I needed to hear about Native Americans with the ending I wanted. Mr. Alexie ended on hope. And We all need that, but especially a people who have been so abused, put to the side, and forgotten.
Thank you for writing this book, Mr. Alexie
I give The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian five full stars.