Book review: ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’
Vail, CO, Colorado
It is rare that a book can take a tough subject, make light of it, and still come off as heartfelt and genuine. Lots of writers poke fun at, point out the ironies in, or just plain opt to eschew racism; Sherman Alexie gives racism a swift kick in the crotch though, bringing it to the forefront without pulling any punches.
Arnold Spirit, the water-on-the-brain protagonist in Alexie’s newest novel, is chock-full of issues. He’s poor, he’s ugly, he’s got a terrible stutter, he’s a chronic masturbator, and worst of all for him, he’s Native American and living on a reservation, where even his teachers acknowledge that if he stays, it will “kill him.” So what does he do? He transfers to an all-white school off the reservation.
This novel’s delivery and intelligence is what sets it apart from other books that deal with racisim. Arnold is a real boy, with real issues, and he deals with them with the same ineptitude that a real, awkward, 15-year-old boy would. Although it’s been some time since Alexie was a teenager, he manages to conjure up the life of a teenage outcast in a manner unparalleled by any other modern adult writer. This is no small task, especially since most folks try to block out most of their teenage memories, especially the painful ones.
The move from the reservation school to the suburban white school ruffles more than just the white peoples feathers, as his own reservation companions have issues with him making the move. The result is a painfully hilarious account of his first year of high school. No issue is taboo, as Alexie addresses much more than overt racism, he tackles less-talked about types of discrimination, he picks apart friendship ” what it really means and the heartbreak that it can cause and he clashes head on with teenage love. Broken dreams and loss may be rife throughout, they are a part of life though, and they are rarely as realistically and eloquently stated as they are in “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
This absolutely true diary may be a work of fiction, but it is the most realistic work of fiction and by far, the most entertaining, to come out this year. Alexie has written a novel that at once entertains and educates, and one that should be required reading for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, age, sex or race.