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144 of 162 found the following review helpful:
Richie's Picks: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIANSep 05, 2007
By Richie Partington
"Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a 'Tale of Two Cities' than it is just a 'Shining City on a Hill.' "
-- Mario Cuomo, 1984 National Democratic Convention Keynote Address
"It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it.
So opines high school student and sometime cartoonist Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, who is despondent as his father prepares to shoot Arnold's suffering dog because there is no money to pay for a veterinarian's services. But a math teacher -- whose nose is broken when Arnold, in his frustration, angrily throws his generations-old math book --endeavors to change Arnold's sense of helplessness:
" 'You can't give up. You won't give up. You threw that book in my face because somewhere inside you refuse to give up.'
"I didn't know what he was talking about. Or maybe I just didn't want to know.
"Jeez, it was a lot of pressure to put on a kid. I was carrying the burden of my race, you know? I was going to get a bad back from it.
" 'If you stay on this rez,' Mr. P said, 'they're going to kill you. I'm going to kill you. We're all going to kill you. You can't fight us forever.'
" 'I don't want to fight anybody.' I said.
" 'You've been fighting since you were born,' he said. 'You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope.'
"I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply hope by hope.
" 'Where is hope?' I asked. 'Who has hope?'
" 'Son,' Mr. P said. 'You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad reservation.' "
I'd certainly heard of Sherman Alexie. Back in my bookstore days, a young college student with whom I worked spoke of him as a god. But I'd never read any of Alexie's books since he hadn't yet written anything for children or YAs.
THE ABSOLUTE TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is a semi-autobiographical tale by Sherman Alexie, written for teen readers, that is in turns wacked-out, funny, heartbreaking, and jubilant. It is the story of an Indian kid who has survived a precarious infancy and is growing up on a reservation outside Spokane. It is a powerful story of friendship between two teenage guys who have grown up together on the reservation. It is the story of Arnold's journey after he is persuaded by the math teacher to escape the rez school and transfer to a high school 22 miles away.
And it is a tale of two cities.
"So what was I doing in Reardan, whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making me the only other Indian in town?"
THE ABSOLUTE TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN portrays Arnold's struggle through that ninth grade school year to succeed at the high school in Reardan, to which he often has to walk and/or hitch. It could be that Arnold's greatest struggle involves the conflict and guilt that comes from living among the Indian kids and grown-ups he's seemingly left behind on the reservation in order to attain that success.
Arnold's humorous and telling drawings (thanks to artist Ellen Forney), which are "taped" into the diary, significantly bolster the book's boy-charm and permit us to see, in a second dimension, Arnold's view of his world.
"My head was so big that little Indian skulls orbited around it. Some of the kids called me Orbit. And other kids just called me Globe. The bullies would pick me up, spin me in circles, put their finger down on my skull, and say, 'I want to go there'."
I loved hanging out in Arnold World! Sherman Alexie and his quirky, in-your-face, first-person tale of contemporary life on and off the reservation are both important and extremely welcome additions to the world of young adult literature.
87 of 97 found the following review helpful:
I almost cried a few times and I laughed a lotOct 05, 2007
By Debra Garfinkle
"author of books for teens and children"
For a story about an impoverished teen on an Indian reservation who has an alcoholic father and faces bullies and racism and the deaths of several close relatives, I sure laughed a lot. I loved the written humor and the wonderful cartoons throughout the book, as well as learning something about life on a reservation. I finished this fast-paced book in two days and was sorry to see it end. This is one of my favorite young adult novels of 2007.
63 of 69 found the following review helpful:
The reservation called AmericaMay 09, 2000
By Ron Franscell, Author of 'Sourtoe Cocktail Club'
"Deep in the heart of the heart of every Indian man's heart, he believes he is Crazy Horse," Sherman Alexie writes in "The Toughest Indian in the World," his new collection of renegade short stories. And that might mean, um, you are Custer.
Or it might just mean Alexie wants you to understand the pride and rage behind these nine lyrical, rebellious, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking stories, where Indians find themselves between worlds, between lives, and between loves.
Fiction writers simulate real life, they don't really bottle it. Alexie is one of the best American writers of any color today, but not because he writes about Indians as an Indian. Rather, it's because he observes the multi-colored light of *human* existence through indigenous eyes. His prism is a valuable cultural artifact on this reservation we call America.
35 of 39 found the following review helpful:
this novel is filled with equal parts humor and tragedy along with some memorable characters thrown in to tasteSep 02, 2007
By Miss Print
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the first book written by Sherman Alexie specifically for a young adult audience. I finished it in two days but have been holding onto my copy because I've been having a hard time articulating why I might love this book.
If you have read anything by Alexie, you know that he writes about life on the Spokane Indian reservation in Washingotn. In Reservation Blues Alexie described the misadventures of Thomas Builds-the-Fire and his friends as they try to start a band (and deal with the relative fame that follows). Like Reservation Blues, this novel is filled with equal parts humor and tragedy along with some memorable characters thrown in to taste. What surprised me about Diary is that it is also more biting that Reservation Blues. At times Alexie's descriptions of white-Indian relations and life on the rez are so scathing that they're painful to read. And yet . . . I couldn't put the book down.
Now that you are sufficiently intrigued, let's talk about the plot.
This story revolves around Arnold "Junior" Spirit, his family and his best friend, Rowdy. We join Arnold at the beginning of the novel at the age of 14. Born with a variety of physical ailments, Arnold is used to being picked on. He doesn't mind, though, because he knows he has his art and his intelligence and his family. Things get complicated for Arnold when he realizes that he has to leave the reservation in order to get a good education and succeed where most of his family and friends have failed. So Arnold starts going to the all-white school in a neighboring all-white town.
As the story progresses, Arnold grapples with his decision and trying to figure out his identity in his new surroundings. With the additions of love, rivalry, and basketball Alexie has enough twists to keep the most impatient readers enthralled. The illustrations by Ellen Forney also really add to the text.
In Reservation Blues and some of his other works, Alexie brings up the issue of alcoholism and heavy drinking on the reservation. The subject comes up again here. I can't say that I understand heavy drinking as a past time in general-it remains equally perplexing here. At the same time, Alexie aptly shows the damage that one too many bottles of . . . whatever . . . can cause, which is part of why I think this novel is really important.
But you won't be reading this book just because I happen to think it's important. No. I expect that you will find yourself charmed by Arnold and his unique outlook on life and opportunity. I know I did.
Like Alexie's other writing, this book is poetic and beautiful but still razor sharp.
When I finished reading, I didn't know what to say-so much so that I wanted to immediately re-read it. (It's the kind of book that you can do that with.) I think that's the best response you can have to a book: when it's so good it leaves you speechless.
17 of 17 found the following review helpful:
OutstandingOct 28, 2007
I've always been a fan of Sherman Alexie, so when I saw this book was written for the young adult marketplace, I took a chance. Without reading it myself first, I brought it in and read it to my class (7th and 8th graders). They loved it. They were excited, enthralled, amused and heartbroken by it. More importantly, after reading it, I had a line of kids (most of whom are generally non-readers) wanting to borrow the book to read it again. To Mr. Alexie, a teacher's highest praise: You made my students want to read.
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