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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie
Once I started this book, I couldn't stop reading. Not only is this young adult book funny and touching it feels so real. Anyone of any age who has struggled to know themselves and has fought for happiness will find resonance in the words and pictures in this impressive work.
Although based (mostly) on his own experience growing up on an Indian reservation, this seemingly depressing tale is anything but. Hilariously funny, lighthearted but wholly sobering, Alexie's story kept me absorbed through the night.
Synopses & Reviews
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
"Screenwriter, novelist and poet, Alexie bounds into YA with what might be a Native American equivalent of Angela's Ashes, a coming-of-age story so well observed that its very rootedness in one specific culture is also what lends it universality, and so emotionally honest that the humor almost always proves painful. Presented as the diary of hydrocephalic 14-year-old cartoonist and Spokane Indian Arnold Spirit Jr., the novel revolves around Junior's desperate hope of escaping the reservation. As he says of his drawings, 'I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.' He transfers to a public school 22 miles away in a rich farm town where the only other Indian is the team mascot. Although his parents support his decision, everyone else on the rez sees him as a traitor, an apple ('red on the outside and white on the inside'), while at school most teachers and students project stereotypes onto him: 'I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.' Readers begin to understand Junior's determination as, over the course of the school year, alcoholism and self-destructive behaviors lead to the deaths of close relatives. Unlike protagonists in many YA novels who reclaim or retain ethnic ties in order to find their true selves, Junior must separate from his tribe in order to preserve his identity. Jazzy syntax and Forney's witty cartoons examining Indian versus White attire and behavior transmute despair into dark humor; Alexie's no-holds-barred jokes have the effect of throwing the seriousness of his themes into high relief. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The line between dramatic monologue, verse novel, and standup comedy gets unequivocally — and hilariously and triumphantly — bent in this novel about coming of age on the rez....Junior's spirit...is unquenchable, and his style inimitable..." Horn Book
"The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner." School Library Journal
"Alexie nimbly blends sharp wit with unapologetic emotion in his first foray into young-adult literature." Kirkus Reviews
"Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt....Younger teens looking for the strength to lift themselves out of rough situations would do well to start here." Booklist
Based on the author's own experiences, this first young adult novel by bestselling author Alexie features poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art as it chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy attempting to break away from the life he was destined to live.
With frizzy orange hair, a plus-sized body, sarcastic demeanor, and "unique learning profile," Danielle Levine doesn't fit in even at her alternative high school. While navigating her doomed social life, she writes scathing, self-aware, and sometimes downright raunchy essays for English class. As a result of her unfiltered writing style, she is forced to see the school psychologist and enroll in a "social skills" class. But when she meets Daniel, another social misfit who is obsessed with the cult classic film The Big Lebowski, Danielle's resolve to keep everyone at arm's length starts to crumble.
About the Author
Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian. He earned a 1994 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, was a citation winner for the PEN/Hemingway Award for the Best First Book of Fiction, and was recently named one of Granta's Best of the Young American Novelists. Alexie is the author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which served as the basis for a film that premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. His book Reservation Blues won him the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award. Alexie's several books of poetry include I Would Steal Horses, Old Shirts & New Skins, First Indian on the Moon, and The Summer of Black Widows.
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