Rachel'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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Nov 01, 2010

really liked it

A day or so ago, I came home after a long and tiring day out, and sprawled out on my parents' bed. The first thing my mom did when she saw me was thump this book onto the bed beside me and say, "You should really read this book." This, in itself, is a rare occurence. My mother does not have to ask me to read...I grab whatever I find looks interesting, and if she thought highly enough of it to actually say the words 'you should read this', she meant 'This is something you don't want to miss.'...like Skulduggery Pleasant (I still can't believe I went about a year before I finally realized my friend was not leading me into another Twilight-esque quicksand, and it was a year too long.)

So, exhausted and barely able to keep my eyes open, I read. And kept reading. First, there were the glowing reviews: "Excellent in every way...I have no doubt in a year or so it'll both be winning awards and being banned," said Neil Gaiman. Neil GAIMAN! BEING BANNED! I was hooked.

The minute Arthur Spirit (aka Junior) is brought into the world, he gets into a fight--for his life. Born with hydrocephalus, he was expected to either be a vegetable, or die during surgery, but he didn't. Instead, His condition causes him to have problems that plagued him throughout his childhood; having 10 more teeth than the average human being, seizures, shortsightedness in one eye and longsightedness in the other, a stutter AND a lisp, yet somehow, Sherman Alexie puts on spin on it that makes it seem almost comical. Everything about this book is honest, and fresh, and sharp as a tack. Alexie isn't afraid to call something what it is, especially when about a page into the book, he openly calls his dentist a bastard for giving him half the Novocain as white people because he was under the assumption Indians feel half the pain.

Everything about the book is honest, and despite the humor, nothing is really sugarcoated. Not the poverty of the Indians, not the deep dark pit of alcoholism and gambling they've been flung into, not the racism, not the malice human beings are capable of, not death, not loss, not hate, not anger, not shame, and certainly not masturbating.

It was so incredible, I found myself flipping back to last page every few paragraphs to look at the author's face. Sherman Alexie Jr...Arthur Spirit Jr. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian...and how he was willing to suffer the abuse and scorn of his fellow tribal members and lose what he cared about in pursuit of "hope"... something better, something beyond the reservation, beyond poverty and perpetual drunkenness and misery and hate and failure.

I adored the incredible illustrations done by Ellen Forney, loved Alexie's style of writing, loved how he never rushed and just let it flow and bob gently on until without warning, he breaks the oars, and in one fluid motion, karate chops a hole in the boat and you're left with the thought, "WTF?!" The best example I can give is the following passage:

"Of course my grandmother had met thousands, tens of thousands, of other Indians at powwows all over the country. Every powwow Indian knew her. Yep, my grandmother was powwow famous. Everybody loved her; she loved everybody. In fact, last week, she was walking back home from a mini powwow at the Spokane Tribal Community Center, when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Yeah, you read that right."

And that's how he makes you sit up and pay close attention to what he has to say. And Alexie has something to say. It's a story about love, about hope, about loss, about courage. It's a story about people--human nature, good and bad. And above all, it's a story worth reading.
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Rachel Thanks Hazel!

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