Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Published: 2009 Little, Brown & Co. (orig. 2007)
My Rating: 4 stars
I didn't really know what I was getting into with this book, I just knew that: 1.) I'd seen some great reviews of it from a couple different book bloggers, 2.) it looked entertaining, and 3.) I was inside a book store (which means, of course, that I had open arms: hoping that more books would manage to jump into my arms than the specific titles I was there to buy.) This little spur-of-the-moment escapade paid off, as the book turned out to be not only entertaining, but also held a good balance of humorous prose and thought-provoking circumstances. It does seem difficult to find funny books that are written well and leave you mulling about them afterwards, doesn't it?
Classified as Young Adult, reading this book felt more like being in my 14 year-old son's head than any other book I've read, or movie I've seen. This made it a bit uncomfortable for me at moments--I'm a girl, I'm a mom, I don't want to visualize my son's personal, private thoughts and actions--but the fact of the matter is that the portions of the book with potential to make an adult uncomfortable are the very parts that teens will identify with, allowing them to consider the other things the book is saying with more openness and trust. I can easily see how some of the content in this book could cause controversy, making some moms reluctant to put this book in the hands of their teens, but I think that it is important to recognize that a parent's discomfort does not necessarily equal inappropriate material. (The books mentions masturbation, racial comments and prejudice, and what could seem a shallow look at eating disorders and other domestic problems. I'm just saying, consider the source, the audience, and the intent.)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is largely autobiographical, which makes the observations about life on an Indian reservation all the more interesting. If you've ever wondered how life is for an Indian in America today, this shows a vivid picture of the loyalty and community contrasted with the self-destruction and stagnancy that life on a reservation entails. Junior, the 14 year-old main character, goes through many difficult things, but manages to retain some vision and humor. One of the charming things about this book is being able to see Junior's sketches and drawings. These are his way of coping and expressing himself, and they make the book that much more unique and enjoyable.
The book doesn't go out with a bang, it has a pretty quiet ending, but I think it worked well. There is so much going on in the book, that the soft ending allows your mind to drift into thought instead of directly moving on to something else. Overall I was entertained, impressed, and inspired to look into more of Sherman Alexie's work. And willing to put this into my 14 year-old son's hands.