Friday, January 15, 2010
Sherman Alexie/THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN
Arnold "Junior" Spirit is a 14-year-old boy who is small, lopsided, funny-looking, and constantly picked on. His best friend, Rowdy, is psychopathically violent and the only thing that prevents Junior from getting his face smashed in everyday. He has never much left the Spoken Indian reservation, and probably wouldn't at all if it weren't for an unfortunate episode on his first day of high school (during which he made a teacher bleed). But transferring to Reardan, the predominantly white high school located 22 miles outside the reservation, changes everything about Junior. He goes from being one kind of outcast to another, and must choose between opportunity and loyalty, decide what it actually means to be Indian, what it means to be successful, and what it means to be a friend.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is just an intensely satisfying read. Quick and pacey, Alexie nips through an entire year in 230 brief pages, with catchy illustration and playful typesetting to reinforce the catchy, playful prose. Best, Alexie does not talk down to his readership, or assume their interests are prurient. Rich and multi-layered, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian may be written at a language and humor level appropriate for teenagers, but the content is sophisticated and challenging. It was a pleasure to read as a book (as opposed to as a YA book).