It was an interesting read...actually listen. Read by some British guy who did an awesome job with all the different character voices. The language wa...moreIt was an interesting read...actually listen. Read by some British guy who did an awesome job with all the different character voices. The language was a little hard to follow since I didn't learn English in the 19th century, but some of it was cool to hear how i'm guessing people spoke them, although I think the story takes place in the mid-1700s. Either way, it's intriguing to hear how people used to say what we say now. The dude's rendering of Long John Silver was the best!(less)
I listened to this book (something I've been doing a lot of these days) and find that listening adds another dimension to books. I feel this especiall...moreI listened to this book (something I've been doing a lot of these days) and find that listening adds another dimension to books. I feel this especially about "The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian" because it is read by the author, Sherman Alexie. I had never heard Alexie speak, and it seemed quite abrupt and loud at first, but I got used to his voice quickly and found myself enjoying his reading of Junior's narration. Alexie's is a voice that sounds as though it has been practiced at reading poetry. I found a lot of the lines poetic too, although I can't quote any not having the book. Alexie also knows when to speed up his reading, when to slow it down, when to be loud and when to be quiet. He's even practiced at sounding sorrowful and as though he is about to cry at a sad time.
I found this audiobook in the "family" section at the library, which is usually made up of young adult fiction. I read someone else's review of this book, and they said they had not realized it was geared toward young adults until a third of the way through. It don't know if it's marketed for young adults or not. I would imagine so just because of the age of the narrator (14), but it also seems to be being narrated by him from an older age, if only slightly (it is in past tense after all). But even so, I think the narration can appeal to young adults and older adults. Junior and his thoughts and feelings are definitely more complex than some of the narrators in YA novels I've read, but I think Alexie does a good job in being able to reach audiences of different ages. Some of the thought processes are sophisticated and abstract, but mostly Junior is just a kid on the rez telling it like it is. He's definitely different than most as he points out, not in a show-off way, but just knowing from a young age that he is "definitely a weird kid" because he feels he is weird and awkward, but also because, as he begins to see himself throughout the novel, he is able to slowly start thinking outside the typical limitations of the rez. He is able to see that if he gives up on himself, he will become just another rez dude he sees all the time, drinking and being unhappy. On the other hand, he is able to empathize with those dudes, including his father, his best friend Rowdy, Rowdy's dad, and his dad's best friend (forget the name), and he is able to admire the beauty in the rez and life there and the things he sees as universal to Native American culture: family, connecting with people and really knowing them instead of shutting down and burning bridges, celebrating, tolerance.
Junior is a great storyteller. This may be because the premise is that he's writing in a diary or just because he's good, but I really enjoyed his personable and candid narration. It felt like he was telling the story to me personally. He threw in lots of conversational words like "Ok," "you know?" "right?" "guess what?" and especially "Yep." I also loved his exaggerations. He was always saying stuff like "my grandmother was the most tolerant person in the world," "Penelope was the most beautiful girl I had seen in my whole life," "I was the most vulnerable kid in America." It just sounds like the way a lot of kids that age exaggerate things that adults may not take so seriously, whether they are bragging about themselves or trying to convey the seriousness of a situation.
Junior also deals a lot with race and racism in the book, again, just telling it like it is from his view. After becoming angry in geometry class because he discovered his text book had belonged to his mother and was over 30 years old and thinking over and over how poor life on the rez was, he threw the book in frustration. He had not meant to, but he hit the teacher square in the nose. Junior was suspended for a week, during which time the teacher came to visit him. The teacher expressed that he was upset that Junior had hit him in the face with the book, but moreso, he was worried about Junior. He was actually proud that Junior took a stand and did something to react to the shitty conditions of life on the rez, but was worried that if Junior did not get out of the rez somehow, he would get stuck there like the majority of the rez kids and become hopeless adults who would never leave and just stay in those conditions and lead crappy lives. I'm not trying to say that everyone living on reservations has crappy lives. What I'm saying is that Junior and others like his geometry teacher saw so many years on the rez and the poor quality of life of most who lived there compared to life outside the rez in "the white world" as Junior later refers to it, that both were worried that Junior could become stuck at the rez repeating those patterns, being subject to a life full of death that had been created by white people. Later in the book, Junior says something like, "Indians were sent by white people to reservations to die--we were supposed to disappear." And while Native Americans haven't totally disappeared, white people, through institutionalized racism, have made sure that Native Americans as a group continue to suffer on reservations, not having adequate access to even basic resources at times. Junior's teacher wants him to be able to transcend the rez so that he might know a better quality of life.
That's when Junior decided he wanted to go to a different school. A white school. A relatively wealthy school.
His parents asked if he was sure. Twice. They asked when he wanted to start.
Tomorrow, he said.
And so he did. And of course he ran into racist white people all the time. But after some time, he slowly got to know some, and they got to know him. A few of them were genuinely caring and compassionate with him. Someone encouraged him to try out for basketball. The coach pushed him to do his best, even when Junior thought he couldn't do something. Yes, he became a token, but he also became a success in his own terms. And of course, as a narrator, he is lovable because he is so modest. But I also feel this is realistic too. A lot of people don't necessarily believe in themselves and so when they start to excel at something, it's kind of a shock. They don't really know how it's happening because they did not plan for it, as opposed to a show-off who feels they can control everyone and everything and brags about themselves constantly. Junior is not this type. For Junior, success is surprising.
And even though Junior lived in the relative poverty of the rez and articulated the negative aspects of life and people's behaviors, he was so compassionate and able to understand why things were that way. He understood the racism of the world, and he saw the good and bad of each person he knew.
Junior is also honest and hilarious and doesn't bristle at insults, instead turning them around and giving them back to the person. There was a time when Junior was playing against his best friend Rowdy because Junior was now on the Rearden varsity basketball team, and Rowdy was on the Wellpinit team (the name of the school on the Spokane Reservation that Junior attended until he decided to go to Rearden). Rearden beat Wellpinit in that game. Later, Junior tells of an email conversation he had with Rowdy about it, saying something like, "Sorry we kicked your asses." Rowdy writes back (this is all from memory), "Don't worry, next year we'll beat you and make you cry like the faggot you are." Junior responds, "I may be a faggot, but I'm the faggot who kicked your ass." Being a queer-identified person, I did not find this offensive, but was laughing out loud with Junior. He takes the insult and spins it around, undermines it. Junior is not afraid of insults because he's been a target all his life, and even though he's modest and puts himself down, he's obviously confident in himself enough to turn them around.
I'll end by saying that listening to the story and voice of Sherman Alexie in this book was inspirational to me, aside from enjoying it immensely. I have been slowly working at writing my own memoir for the last few years and it's been slow going. My writing style has been so serious and extremely detailed and prolific, it was exciting when I began to write concise and even humorous sentences about my own life after listening to Alexie. I thought, "I can write like that!" So thank you to Sherman Alexie for this excellent work and for not being afraid to tackle racism, homophobia, poverty, social relationships, pain and suffering, as well as joy and laughter of a life that I otherwise may have never thought about, the life of a kid on the rez in Spokane. You have my gratitude. (less)
Good read. Yes, this is a "youth novel" in the teen section at the library, but sometimes these are the best reads. Colfer seems to have a way with hu...moreGood read. Yes, this is a "youth novel" in the teen section at the library, but sometimes these are the best reads. Colfer seems to have a way with humor...he's good at it, witty...I was laughing aloud many times throughout this read. I picked it up because it is one of only 4 items at the entire library system that references the Irish sport of hurling. I was disappointed at the lack of references there actually are to the sport, but was delighted with the story. I also read this out of sequence as this book came after another with the same protagonist, Benny, who was named after Bernard Shaw by his poet mother. Good stuff.(less)
I originally put "I liked it" for this book, but after reading other readers reviews, I was reminded of a strong central theme in this book that I rea...moreI originally put "I liked it" for this book, but after reading other readers reviews, I was reminded of a strong central theme in this book that I really appreciate, so I changed the 3 stars to 4. That theme, or idea (don't know if I'm using "theme" correctly) is that whatever state of mind or being one or a group wants to come to, they have to start by getting into that mindset immediately. 47 is a slave, I think during the 1830s in Georgia on the Corinthian Plantation, where after several chapters he meets Tall John, who repeats the phrase "Neither master nor n***** be." He says it over and over like a mantra, and it is clear that the way he thinks and acts comes directly from his belief in this statement. I have read many accounts of revolutionaries and even people such as Arnold Swartzenegger (sp?) say things similar about a variety of subjects. In his case, if you want to be as fit and muscular as me, you immediately have to start thinking and acting as if you are already there. This means changing your diet, the time you dedicate to exercise. In most people's lives, they would need to make revolutionary changes, but that's what this type of thinking and changing requires and that's what I appreciate so much. For Tall John, who was actually a supernatural being from another planet inhabiting a slave's body on earth (also an interpretation of an African mythological character called High John), he was able to challenge the slave master at Corinthian, Tobias, at least in part due to his thinking, "Neither master no n***** be." He repeated it so often that 47, the main character began to pick it up and correct himself, after many times when Tall John had to confront 47's old ways of thinking. At first, 47 thought Tall John was "crazy" to confront the structure of domination that had been forced upon himself and all other slaves. But every time 47 referred to himself or other slaves using "n*****," Tall John would simply correct him by repeating this ultimately empowering phrase. 47 was eventually able to see that the language he used about himself and others was part of what was replicating this structure of oppression and so he stopped using it. I am glad that a book marketed to and written for African-American young people has this to say and I hope younger readers will be inspired by it, as well as older readers. I'm 31 and enjoyed reading this book myself.
Actually listening to this one...my long-lost aunt (now long-lost, not lost in the distant past) sent me a copy of this book when I was still the age...moreActually listening to this one...my long-lost aunt (now long-lost, not lost in the distant past) sent me a copy of this book when I was still the age it was marketed for, but I never read it. This also gave me a chance to listen to those new fangled "Playaways" they have at the library.(less)
Cot Quashey, or Cot Daley as she was known before she got married, narrates a tale spanning her entire life for a British scribe who is subject to the...moreCot Quashey, or Cot Daley as she was known before she got married, narrates a tale spanning her entire life for a British scribe who is subject to the British Governor of Barbados. Cot is a prisoner when we enter the story who is charged with telling about her part in the slave uprising of 1675 (I think, can't quite remember exact years). By this point in the story, Cot has lived most of her life in indentured servitude or slavery (sometimes they were interchangeable), although she was captured and sold by Irish serf/ slave dealers in her homeland of Ireland when she was ten years old. Cot promises to tell her part in the uprising only if she is allowed to tell her whole story in her own words. The scribe, Peter Coote, grudgingly relents and agrees to hear her whole story.
I couldn't help but think of "Roots" by Alex Haley, which I am currently reading as well on and off, during different parts of "Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl." In Kate McAfferty's novel, Cot's description of the time on the slave ship was much shorter and not as graphic as those in "Roots," but some of the similarities are striking: the time below deck being rife with human waste, rats, and uncertainties at how the crew would punish its captives next; sleeping conditions being uncomfortable and painful with raw wounds being rubbed by bare boards; less than adequate food; having no sense of place or direction or time or when the journey will end. Of course, it is also problematic to compare these two stories for other reasons. Cot's story and that of Kunta Kinte ("Roots") are vastly different in most ways, especially the frames of cultural reference. Cot having been from a major Irish city (Galway) in the 1600s had already learned English as a child. She was also familiar with British culture having grown up in Ireland, and so her captors and slavers were familiar to her in the way that they looked and in their communication. For Kunta Kinte, his cultural frame of reference was worlds apart, having been born and raised in an African country (The Gambia) in the mid-1700s, in a Muslim community, speaking a language called Mandinka (also the name of the tribe to which he belonged). He began to hear about the "tu bob," or whites, and how they would steal people away or kill them for no apparent reason, but he did not encounter one until he was 17, when he was beaten and taken away to a tu bob ship. Having never seen a tu bob before, and knowing the stories he had heard of them from his father and others, he was disgusted and terrified at their looks, their behavior, their language, and their smell. I believe Kunta's captors were British. For Cot, she would've been familiar with all of this already from her British captors and slavers.
Still, I kept remembering "Roots" as I read along in "Testimony." Though the two stories are separate in time and space, and vastly different in many ways, I was also struck at how powerless the main characters of both books were. Both stories have had a profound effect on my thinking of slavery. Perhaps it was how well both characters and their narratives were written; perhaps it was easier for me to relate to the cultural context of being a white/ Irish/ European slave than an African slave and then being able to relate some of the similarities in both that gave me a broader picture of what it was to be a slave; perhaps it was a combination of those and other things. And I think back to reading "I Cried, You Didn't Listen" by Dwight Abbott, who recounts his horrendous experiences in the California juvenile incarceration system. Now I can match up the pictures I've seen comparing sketches of slave ships and their cargo and sketches of architectural plans for modern-day prisons. "Slave Ships on Land" they say. Absolutely.
Because of the overwhelming feeling I get from these accounts of helplessness, hopelessness, and complete power given over to the slaver/ prison guard with absolutely no chance for freedom from someone else's overlording, abuse, and absolute control, I cannot help but see modern prisons as modern versions of slave plantations. I had this anxious feeling reading these accounts, having hope that of course one day, this sympathetic character would "get out," "be free" or "escape." Part of it is my desire for them to be free. Part of it is my anxiety that I have a responsibility to either help get them free or stop contributing/ fight back against a system that guarantees certain people will inevitably be enslaved/ incarcerated. In all cases, the protagonists were occasionally given small reprieves, but spent most of their lives under the abusive and horrendously cruel control of a few wealthy people and their less wealthy enforcers. In each account (Cot, Kunta, and Dwight), the central character was not guilty of any crime, but discriminated against based on some part of who they were (Irish, Black, a vulnerable child, poor, etc.).
The only complaint I might levy against "Testimony" was that it dragged on at times, allowing Cot to go over the most tedious details without a whole lot of description of what was going on around her. I believe part of the reason the author chose to do this was to give the reader a sense of how the scribe was feeling, who constantly butted in to say "Get on with it already!" only to be snubbed and reminded of Cot's agreement to be allowed to tell her whole story. Another reason was to give as much detail to a story seldom told, and while I believe the details are important, there may be less boring ways to tell them. Then again, there may not.(less)
I'm not well-read on juvenile/ young adult books these days, but I found this one easy to read and interesting enough to keep me turning the pages. The...moreI'm not well-read on juvenile/ young adult books these days, but I found this one easy to read and interesting enough to keep me turning the pages. The main character, Nick Taglio, or "Tag," is a hockey star in high school. The book starts when Nick gets hit from behind by an opposing player during a game, which results in him getting a grade 3 concussion, which is the worst kind. Turns out that Nick's had several concussions so far and that this is his last--his parents and neurologist won't let him play again. But he is not deterred from trying to get back on the ice. Along the way, Nick addresses different political issues such as race, gender, and sexuality. There's also plenty of drama between himself and his girlfriend as well as his family. Among all the different arguments and fights between all the characters, I kept waiting for some blow out that would drastically change all the lives of the characters, or at least Nick's life. But surprisingly, the changes in the characters were gradual, which I think is more true to life--the big life-changing event came right at the beginning of the book. And I think it's pretty impressive that the author was able to sustain interest to the very end of the book considering that. I would've liked to have seen a little more physical description of the characters. basically, you learn what they look like the first time your encounter them and then that's it. The story is also told from the point of view of what I think to be a typical white, straight, male jock. There's a lot of swearing, use of the word "faggot," etc. Toward the end of the book, Nick legitimizes the use of the word "faggot" by differentiating between one and someone who is gay. One character is revealed to be gay toward the end of the book as well, and Nick explains to his mom that Lucas is gay, but not a faggot. She asks what the difference is. He explains gay is gay, but being a faggot means being a pussy. Mom doesn't react to either word usage, and so using "faggot" is legitimized much in the same way it was in the movie "8 Mile" if you've ever seen it. It seems like a cop out to me considering the way in which "fag" or "faggot" is still used largely in society, still as an undercut to gay and/ or queer people, a delegitimization or objectification of them. The absence of Nick's mom's reaction to the use of the word "pussy" does exactly the same thing in the book--it legitimizes this use of the word and the use of the word at all in a book that is marketed to and written for young adults, particularly white, middle class, straight male high school athletes. Nick is also an honest third person narrator, acting the tough guy towards the other characters at first, but revealing his internal thoughts and feelings of insecurity, anger, and guilt. He also eventually reveals these to the other characters, making him, ultimately, a sincere character. This was an interesting and quick read for me and will help me in my research for writing my own hockey novel.(less)
Man, I don't know about this how many stars out of five system...I know the author and i don't feel comfortable rating this book.
Suffice it to say, it...moreMan, I don't know about this how many stars out of five system...I know the author and i don't feel comfortable rating this book.
Suffice it to say, it blew me out of the water! It is a really intense book, emotionally and otherwise, and a great story to boot. It is crystal clear that Ann knows her characters extremely well, which lends them credibility and unique voices. I truly appreciate this book and find myself wanting to refer to it for examples of character voice during my own process of writing a novel (yes, i took the NaNoWriMo challenge...unofficially. I'm still keeping up with the word count and it's actually really fun!). Unfortunately for me, I lent the book out...alas, i cannot refer to it for now. But this is a great read, intense, deep characters who are all unique, and very important issues are covered in so far as how "mountaintop removal" directly affects those folks who live in and around those mountains and how devastating the actions of coal companies and their employees can be on those who are most directly affected.