Meg's Reviews > The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
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's review
Oct 16, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: ya

I thought for a second I'd only give this four stars but, okay. I was schooled by teachers who were for the most part trying really hard to achieve a multicultural education in Whiteland. It must have been a daunting task, right? But you would run into a teacher here or there who had his or her own Thing, like, I had a history teacher really into critical thought who totally busted out Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories. And it didn't make up my whole education so of course there are portions I had to break and rebuild, but I feel like in general they were willing to give me the tools.

One thing that got harped a lot was Learning About Our Native American Friends. And basically at this point we were all claiming colorblindness, probably one of the most harmful lessons I learned. As such we were taught to approach unfamiliar cultures, and native cultures in particular, with this kind of cold, bowed reverence. Sure we had destroyed them but at least we could appreciate this amazing story about a turtle being the world!!!!

But you know what? Never and not once did I ever get a chance to really appreciate American Indians for what they were at that very moment, and that was people living in the same weather at the same time in the same state. We learned about longhouses but never about reservation economics. Here and there you would have a movie or a TV character who was of native descent, and that poor individual was forced to be kind of both wise beyond his or her years but also kind of fun loving so we knew that we were GUILTY BECAUSE OF WHAT WE HAD DONE AND WHAT WE THOUGHT OF THEM AND ALSO THEY WERE STILL THE OTHER (DANNY FROM HEY DUDE I AM LOOKING AT YOU) THE OTHER THE OTHER THE OTHER THE OTHER THE OTHER.

The other: the most awful thing we do, you guys.

So anyway, this book. It may be well-trod ground for Alexie, I kind of get that feeling (even if you've just read "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" you will immediately pick out similar elements), but as a middle-grade book I am seeing it standing alone. It's a totally real teenage guy voice, kind of dirty, kind of abrupt, kind not all that interested in the nuances of relationships and yet totally aware of how they work. Alexie doesn't solve a thing in this book, plus the good guy/bad guy thing is so muddled that it can only be true.

If I'd inhaled this book as a kid, right alongside my Roald Dahls and Judy Blumes I think I really seriously would have been better at knowing anything about the fraught modern relationship that USA USA USA USA has with its natives. And goddamn, among all the learning about the Five Nations and the screenings of sanctimonious videos, I might have actually learned something.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Michelle Lemaster Your writing voice is a crack up. I've had oodles of fun reading your reviews.

message 2: by Meg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meg aw, thanks!

King Meg,
Miigwech(thank you)for your comments. I am an American Indian woman living on an Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, and I loved the book because it is every reservation here in the USA. I am a school teacher at a school where 70% of the students are Indian and only 3% of the teachers are Indian and no administration is Indian. The text books in this country still say Columbus discovered America and called us Indians because he though he was in India, yet at the time there was no country of India it was called Hindustan. Nor does anyone teach that 96% of the food we eat today came from Indians corn, peppers, potatoes, beans, cocoa, peanuts, squash,tomatoes, just to mention a few.

No one teaches about boarding school, asylums for our spiritual leaders, small pocks blankets,theft of land that is still going on, and corrupt tribal governments. All we want is the truth to be taught, a formal apology and the injustice to end. I think we are asking for too much. I am 62, I hope I can live long enough to see the change, but the life expectancies of Indian people is only 55, so am playing the odds. Anyway I just wanted to thank you for your insightful comment. Gegawabamin (see you later) Diana King

Steven thts kinda wack

Karen Chung Thanks - I enjoyed this!

Karen Your review is as entertaining as the book!

Marti Dolata Your review gave me the words why this book is an essential read for everyone. Thank you.

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