Friday, February 29, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

One of the reasons I love to read is because it takes me outside of my home, outside of my very small universe and plunks me down somewhere I would never get to without a book to take me there. It's not a perfect place because it's colored by the author's perception, but it's still different from anything I would see with my own eyes.

Sherman Alexie successfully transported me to the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. He introduced me to Arnold Spirit, Jr. and gave me a good dose of what his life is like. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" is told from Arnold/Junior's point of view. He's fourteen and has a myriad of medical problems, not to mention he's goofy looking and poor. He talks and acts like a typical 14 year-old boy, so that might be a turn off. I almost put the book down and walked away, but I felt like the book had something I needed to read in it. Arnold/Junior (his white friends call him Arnold, his Indian friends call him Junior) decides to get off the reservation and go to the white school 22 miles away. He doesn't want to end up like his sister, living in the basement and going nowhere in her life, or his father who's drunk most of the time, or his best friend, Rowdy, who's so full of anger he lashes out at everybody but him. This book sounds incredibly depressing, doesn't it? But it is unbelievably funny. Hilarious. Arnold/Junior glaringly sees his life and his misfortunes, but he still makes you crack up about it. He's the kind of kid you would want as your friend, no matter how weird looking and goofy he was.

You can tell that Sherman Alexie soaked this story with his own experiences and when I read the blurb about his life, you can tell he knows these things first-hand. It makes what happens even more sad knowing they are accurate, but at the same time, again I feel like I have a better view of a part of the world I would never see otherwise. Mr. Alexie is more known for his poetry, short stories and even films, so I'll have to add him to my list of to-reads. I would recommend you the same.

On a funny side-note, I found a video clip of Sherman Alexie's acceptance speech when he won the National Book Award. It looked more like a Nerdy Homely Author Convention! Is that what we have to expect if we meet an author? The presenters of the award looked like they just walked out of the archives of a library, all squinty-eyed and bookish. I remember the first time I saw a picture of Garrison Keillor I about fainted. Surely this could not be the same man whose voice came out of the radio! Some faces are meant for radio and novels, that's for sure.


  1. I was thinking that was Garrison. I too was so surprised. I actually saw him in person the first time I saw him and was so shocked. We got to attend one of his Prairie Home Companion shows in Minnesota.
    Glad you told us about the book. It is not something I would pick up in the library without your recommendation...