Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I just finished The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sherman Alexie is a Seattle author who won the National Book Award for this book. Some store staff and I attended a banquet in Portland on Saturday where Alexie was also awarded the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2008 award. We met him and he signed a book for each of us. He barely made it to the ceremony because of the crazy mix of spring weather. Hail, snow, rain and a little bit of sun gave him a schizophrenic drive down I-5.

This really is a good book – a novel based on Alexie’s life, growing up on the Spokane Reservation. One line in the book has stayed with me. Describing the small town on the edge of the reservation he says, “…it’s a hick town, I suppose, filled with farmers and rednecks and racist cops who stop every Indian that drives through. During one week when I was little, Dad got stopped three times for DWI: Driving While Indian”.

What is daily life like for a 14 year old, on and off the reservation, not really feeling like he fits comfortably in either world? Arnold, the main character, had attended over 40 funerals in his short life. Most of those deaths were somehow related to alcohol abuse. He often hitchhiked to school when there was no money for gas or his Dad was too hungover to drive. In spite of these things and more, Arnold, persisted in his quest to be more than he could be if he stayed close to home. He attended a “white” school and eventually played basketball against the reservation boys he had grown up with. There is some subject matter that might be troubling – as a bookseller, I would only recommend it for 14 and up. Many adults are reading it. I liked it, though I squirmed a bit. I’ve never been inside the mind of a 14 year old boy before and this book took me there. I’ve emerged a little more understanding of both his gender and his race.

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Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 4:11 am  Leave a Comment  

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