The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is a bildungsroman tale that relates the story of Arnold Spirit Junior who is fourteen years old and l...moreThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is a bildungsroman tale that relates the story of Arnold Spirit Junior who is fourteen years old and lives on the Spokane Tribe Reservation in Washington State. Junior has been born with water on his brain and is still suffering the after effects of this unfortunate entry to the world; he's prone to seizures he has an enlarged head, he had ten extra teeth that had to be painfully pulled all at once, etc. He feels very limited in what he can do with his future. Through a series of events with a White teacher he decides that in order to take control of his own future and to hold on to any hope he may have he needs to go to the "White" school off of the reservation. Junior spends his days trying to acclimate to a White high school that is very different from the school on the "rez".
I am Elna Baker. No, I’m not actually Elna Baker. What I mean to say is, I was able to connect deeply with Elna Baker for most of her memoir The New Y...moreI am Elna Baker. No, I’m not actually Elna Baker. What I mean to say is, I was able to connect deeply with Elna Baker for most of her memoir The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. This is one of those memoirs that I really, truly and thoroughly enjoyed. I found myself laughing out loud at several times during this book. Take for instance the story that she recounts about a prank that her father played on her and her sister in which he made the girls believe that “Dilly Bars” were an object of frightening evil rather than a tasty treat served at Dairy Queen. After he has scared them out of their five year old minds he then goes off in search of some Dilly Bars to bring back to the house. “Tina started crying ‘The Dilly Bars! Not the Dilly Bars!’ I peed my pants.” (29)
The book is about 20-something Elna Baker living as a mormon in New York City, which is just as hard as it sounds. I was able to connect with Baker over a few things in this book. I connected to her over her struggle with religion. Today, I consider myself a Christian. This was not always the case and I spent a good chunk of my life as an Atheist. The book touches a lot on Baker’s doubts and seeing her weigh the possibility that Mormonism might not be the best road for her to travel. Entering into any religion is tricky. It’s not like buying a new pair of jeans; if they look tacky, oh well, that’s why there is a goodwill. When one chooses to enter into a religion, especially one as deep and consuming as Mormonism, it’s a complete lifestyle choice. Mormonism is hardcore. No coffee?! Really?! That is where you loose me and I have to opt for something a little safer, like Presbyterianism. The choice of Mormonism for Baker meant that many times she had to do (or not do) things that she would not normally be so keen on (or that she would love). I remember what it was like to decide to believe in something bigger than myself. It was not an entirely good, easy, or comfortable feeling. It was scary and it made me feel like I was not being the smart and practical and reality based girl that I so prided myself on being. It was comforting to read that someone who was brought up always beliving in a higher power also had doubts about her faith. “How can I possibly sign my name to something I don’t entirely agree with?” (18) Like me, Baker is smart. She is a smart and thoughtful girl. And it was another comfort to read this: “I think most religious people experience just as much doubt as they do faith; they just don’t admit it. And I don’t think doubting makes you bad. I think it makes you smart.” (17) I loved knowing that someone so devoted to such an enormous faith felt the same way that I, a huge sinner and many-year Atheist, did.
Besides religion and doubt, I also connected with Baker on her quest to find love. A Mormon is raised to find another Mormon to marry and then procreate (a lot) with them. “‘Why do our lives only matter if we’re married?’ Tina complained. ‘Because we’re women,’ I answered.” (37) I feel like a spinster at 26 sometimes, but that is nothing compared to what Baker has to endure. “As if aging, social pressure, potential weight gain, dried-up ovaries, and a mother’s constant prodding isn’t enough to motivate marriage, I have to find a partner for eternity, and I can’t even sleep with him first.” (36) I’ve always been a person who believes in that deep, life altering, storybook love. I blame it on reading too many fairy tales as a child, but it is what it is and it’s who I am today. I ached for Elna to find someone that she could spend her life with. And she wanted it as well, so badly. At one point in the book, it looked as if she had found him. Matt. He was the yin to her yang, the Harold to her Maude, the Ren to her Stimpy. However, that turns out to be quite a debacle. He is an Atheist. I felt really ripped off by this part of the book. I felt as if Baker herself did not want this relationship to work and she sabatoged it to make it fail. And that upset me, because I had spent many nights wrapped up on my couch on her journey to love, rooting for her to find a man just like Matt and then when she did, she just let it go to pot. I was mad at Elna, and I did not feel like she was my friend anymore.
And then, things got even worse between Elna and me. I started to get the feeling that perhaps Ms. Baker was not being 100% honest with me, her devoted fan and reader. Certain scenarios began to seem embellished and just a little too shiny for me. These things would be excellent anectdotes in a work of fiction, but this was April and I was reading memoirs, you know, that little thing called the truth. Two instances immediatley spring to mind to prove my point: 1. At one point Baker and her friends sneak their way into a 7-11 conference by pretending to be employees. This possible fabrication went on to have Baker and her friends invited on a cruise for 7-11 higher-ups and has her making a toast to the entire conference attendees over the awesomeness of the 7-11 franchise. 2. Later in the book, Baker is working as a hostess at a fancy pants New York restaurant. While here she engages in a conflict over the phone with a noted celebrity who is not Warren Beaty but whom she refers to as Warren Beaty. This phone conflict develops into a face-to-face conflict in which the celebrity, NOT Warren Beaty, but a celebrity of his caliber, physically comes to the restaurant to confront our heroine. This confrontation leads to a date with the celebrity (who, don’t forget, is NOT Warren Beaty). The date itself becomes wildly unbelievable in that Baker drinks (cue the audible gasp) wine! Baker then makes out with the celebrity (who is not Warren Beaty) and then he comes home with her where she does not sleep with the man who is not Warren Beaty, but she does make a huge fool of herself. She paints the celebrity (who is not Warren Beaty) to be kind of a dumb schmo, who just can’t take a hint that she does not want to sleep with him despite the fact that she has lead him on to believe that she will all night, but at the end of that chapter, it was Baker, with her school girl antics and her infuriating actions that I felt embarrassed for.
I have my doubts too, Elna. I have my doubts about religion at times, and I am glad that we could relate there. But, I also have my doubts about your “memoir”. Was the entire book a work of non-fiction? I can’t say for sure yes or no there, but I do have my doubts. Was the entire book enjoyable and difficult to put down? Yes, it certainly was that. Do I recommend this book? Yes, I do, without a doubt.(less)
I started out LOVING this book! It was so interesting to get insight into the life of a relatively unknown actress like de Rossi. It moved along so q...more I started out LOVING this book! It was so interesting to get insight into the life of a relatively unknown actress like de Rossi. It moved along so quickly for the first 3/4 of the book, but then it just started repeating itself. We heard a lot about dress sizes and Vera, her costume person on the set of Ally McBeal, as well as all of the places that she burst into a run in her platform shoes; and that was great, at first. I wanted to hear more about Francesca and Ellen and Mel! I wanted the dirt! I understand that when a person elects to pen a story of their life, that they are able to discuss certain things and they may also leave things out. However, I wanted to hear more about her private life that is only glossed over with back-alley photographs and airbrushed wedding portraits in the tabloids. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some tabloids, but I also love getting the real inside scoop straight from the horse’s mouth which is why I thought that this memoir in particular would be a little bit easier to swallow.
It was a pretty good book overall though. I thought that the end section with Ellen was very rushed and I would have liked to have read more of the happy-ending stuff that was so forced and so quick and then suddenly over. I found myself skimming as I got more towards the end to get to the happy and away from the misery.
I think that I would recommend this book to someone, especially someone who may be gay or who may be struggling with an eating disorder. Overall, one of the better memoirs that I’ve ever read (not that I’ve read many!)(less)