Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This is book three of my Expanding Your Horizons challenge. I'm half way done :)

There is much to like in this book. Junior is such a mix of weakness and strength - caught between two different worlds, both culturally and mentally. I appreciated his struggles and honest words about living on a reservation and the vices that can stifle his people. But you also get a sense that, as much as his Indian Family frustrates him and angers him, there is truly a feeling of solidarity and community that he recognizes and sorely misses once he chooses to leave. I felt like the line on page 198 was symbolic, when in the basketball game, "one play can change your momentum forever." For Junior, that play in his life was his choice to transfer from the "rez" high school to the "white" high school in town. And it did change his momentum - it opened doors and offered opportunities that he would never have had, but at a great cost.

As a cultural study, I found it a very interesting perspective - it doesn't paint a glossy picture of reservation life. While living and working with others of your culture for support seems good, the lack of opportunities and a general state of hopelessness seem to sometimes make reservations a place for dreams to die. I'm sure his being a teenager influenced that perspective somewhat - I appreciated that Junior's emotions never felt contrived. While I found it funny at times, and poignant at times, I probably would've related to it much better if I was a teenage boy - I had a hard time with some of the crassness in the book. I did like most of the cartoons and the "diary" format. The book does make you think about your own preconceptions of Indians as a group and as individuals - it brings reservation life into an interesting focus.

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