Young Adult Book Reading Challenges discussion

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Absolutely True Diary of A... > general impressions of the book

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Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) I read this book several books ago and my memory is no longer quite as clear as it was upon immediately finishing.

But, I adored this book.

One thing that really struck me was how one bad thing after another happened but how, despite that, the book was genuinely funny. And very moving. And very inspirational as well.

I'm really looking forward to hearing what other members thought, and to participating in discussion threads as they get created.

Sandi (sandikal) I started this book thinking it might be a good one to pass on to my almost-13 year old son. While I liked the book, I will not be passing it on to him. There's a lot of material in there that I think would embarrass him if he knew I had read it. Also, I don't think it's really that good for a young teen. It might be okay when he's sixteen or so, but not at this age.

Melissa (melissacwalker) I absolutely loved this book. I found myself laughing through tears, which is a hard trick for an author to pull on me but a great mix of emotions. The writing felt honest, brutal and sweet all at once.

lionlady | 32 comments I enjoyed the book a lot! The honesty and open treatment of all topics in a 14 yr. old boys mind/life was refreshing. The humor, the pain, the candor - all blended into a good read. Alcoholism, poverty and racism are all big issues for many of my students. Many of them don't have any place to turn and feel isolated. Its good to know there's a book they might relate to and maybe will get them talking. My own kids are all adults now (2boys, 1girl), but I would have recommended it when they were Jr. High/High School age.
I did think the sexual reference when he learned of his sister's death was gratuitous. It seemed redundant and didn't add anything to the story or my understanding of his emotions at the time. But, hey, that was minor. This is a good one!

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) Sandi, I can understand how you'd feel, but I think that middle school age kids would benefit from reading this book. It seems to be the age when kids can be most cruel to one another, and, if the readers who read this book could summon some empathy for this main character and the way he is treated, perhaps they'd think about it and be kind vs. mean to other kids.

Katie Verhaeren | 12 comments I've read a few things by Sherman Alexie and this novel is one of my favorites. I learned after finishing the novel just how closely the story parallels Alexie's own life, which only made it more touching and enjoyable.
I agree with Lisa's comments about how middle school kids could benefit from reading the book and especially from discussing and thinking about the main character and how he was treated. As for content, I didn't find much in this story that was more graphic than what I've read in other young adult novels. Of course, what is appropriate varies on a child by child basis.
For any current or future teachers that have liked this book, I recommend reading "Indian Education" in "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." The short story goes through Alexie's education almost year by year and is typical Alexie-heartbreaking and hysterical all at once.

Sandi (sandikal) I know that many middle-school boys do deal with the violence and sexual issues that Junior faced. I think it's good for boys to empathize with that and with the poverty. It did bother me that he talked so much about masturbation. If I passed this on to my son, I think he would be embarrassed to know that I had read about it.

The thing that concerned me the most was the depiction of the Indians. There was truly NOBODY on the reservation worth looking up to? Everybody was an alcoholic? Everybody got into fights? I know things are bad on the reservations, but couldn't Alexie have shown one or two positive Indian characters? I felt this book perpetuated racist stereotypes and it's kind of sad that it was a Native American author doing it.

J-Lynn Van Pelt | 43 comments Sandi,

Check out the topic discussion entitled "Art Imitates Life." This book is a lightly fictionalized account of Alexie's own life. He felt like there weren't a lot of role models on his rez. Is it still a stereotype if it was true for the author?

Sandi (sandikal) Well, there is a difference between "not a lot" and "none at all". This book was a "none at all". Yes, some of the Indian characters had some good qualities, but they were all drunk and/or violent. He even says that they're all that way. Considering that the audience is going to be mostly teenage non-Indian boys, I think it would have been a good idea for Alexie to show at least one character besides the protagonist who had something positive going for him. I think when white teens read this book, they'll absorb the stereotypes as absolutes.

J-Lynn Van Pelt | 43 comments So, if teens see things in stereotypes or "absorb the stereotypes as absolute," couldn't you argue that Alexie's narrator is well written and authentic?

Liz Delzell | 12 comments I liked the book - it was so real to me because it was funny and sad at the same time. That's how life is, right?

That said, parts were predictable and a little too feel-good (Really? The whole white school ends up liking his 70s suit? Really? He jumps OVER Rowdy at the big game? Really?). The whole Penelope thing bothered me, too. What was the point of that character? She seemed so flat and fake to me.

Some people have mentioned not feeling comfortable with letting their children read this book, but I say why not? Especially if they are 13 or 14 years old. This book isn't going to introduce them to any foreign concepts, let's put it that way.

As for the stereotyping of Native Americans, I didn't really see that. I saw this book as more of a portrait of overcoming a hopeless situation... and the circumstances of that situation seemed genuine enough to me.

message 12: by Beth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beth (bethfehlbaum) | 7 comments Arnold's grandmother was against stereotype. And I agree with Liz that the book was universal in its theme of overcoming adversity. The problems Arnold encountered were NOT limited to the Native American population-- but Alexie wrote what he knew-- and he did it from a place of compassion, of letting the reader know about the hopelessness and disenfranchisement the Indians feel because of years of the government treating them as "Less-Than."

Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Ch. 1 is online!

Nikki (nikk329) | 32 comments I highly enjoyed this book and read it in one night.

Diane (dianes) I really enjoyed reading this book, both the first time and again when I just re-read it.It made me laugh out loud many times! I even read aloud some parts to my 17 year old son. It also made me think about some very serious issues such as racism and poverty.

Katie Verhaeren | 12 comments We had a long conversation in my class about the stereotypes present in the book. What was really interesting was that one of the girls in my group was Native American and had spent a lot of time on (though did not grow up on) the Rez. She was concerned with the possibility of readers taking away only negative stereotypes as well, however was for using it to discuss and examine stereotypes, where they come from, etc. I also agree that the Grandmother was against stereotype and I often felt that even with the characters that were drunk and/or violent I understood a little of why they were like that and they were more humans with flaws than stereotypical drunken Indians.
I also think it's interesting that Alexie has said that he writes his books for reservation Indians, how would they react to those portrayals?

Elaine (readingrat) | 24 comments I absolutely loved this book. I liked the way the humor was juxtaposed against the sadder truth's of Junior's life.

message 17: by Angie, YA lovin mod!! (last edited Jun 19, 2008 06:40PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Angie | 2687 comments Mod
I can't decide if I liked the book. I guess I liked the story but it was a sad story. It can be hard to move on when your feel like no one is on your side. It was hard to read about Junior's life. But it was an insightful read. Not ever book is going to be a happy story, so I guess I was surprised at the story. It has caused me to want to read more of Alexie's books to learn more. It even made me want to visit a reservation but I know those aren't tourist spots... but the book has perked my interest in Native American life style. I am not too sure if a lot of people were interested in reading this book... it doesn't seem to have as many people participating as the other books.

message 18: by Amber (last edited Jun 25, 2008 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amber | 34 comments I absolutely loved this book. I found myself laughing through tears. The writing felt honest and kind. I think everyone should read this book.

My boyfriend's grandfather (he is blind) is listening to this book on tape right now. After I told him that I enjoyed the book so much. I caught myself sitting and listen to the book all over again. The book on tape is also performed by the author, I thought it was cool to hear the words that he has written with his voice. The funny thing is the voice that I had in my head when I was reading this book was the exact voice that the author has.

message 19: by Angie, YA lovin mod!! (new) - rated it 3 stars

Angie | 2687 comments Mod
That is interesting that the author does the reading on the audio book!

Claire | 8 comments Wow, did I love this book. It's one of those titles that will prompt me to ask everyone I know, "Have you read...?" The narrator's voice is so distinct and his observations so insightful.

The question about stereotypes is important to explore, especially since Alexie has said that he drew from his own experience. I think if the book sparks discussions like this one in classrooms, that makes it one powerful teaching tool.

My take is that Arnold is honest about the despair of his people, but he also reflects on the incredible beauty of the reservation. I believe he truly respects the sense of community he feels there. And in the end, it's that sense of community that leads him to the understanding that he can feel connected to the countless other tribes of "outsiders" in the world.

Lindsey (lindseymichaelmiller) | 9 comments I "absolutely" loved this book. (boo...cheesy joke!). Actually, in reality, I read this from cover to cover without once putting it down. I can understand why it's won so many awards, and hopefully, as people continue to read it, everyone will garner a better understanding of the world of Native Americans, which is often so isolated that many of us have no idea about the beautiful struggles of this once great but now diminishing culture.

Here's the first part of my review:

Alexie’s work is both surprisingly delightful with beautiful and hilarious moments and shockingly dark, giving poignant commentary on the current state of a once thriving cross-continental culture. To compare it to some current works, the tone of the narrative is a blend between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Wednesday Wars, replete with drawings that aid the story and give comic relief and rife with intellectual wit that gives insight into White culture, Native American culture and the growing pains of youth.

To read the rest, check it out here:

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