Saturday, March 28, 2009

National Book Award winner, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, out in paperback (finally!)

The title may be a bit of a mouthful, but Sherman Alexie's latest young adult novel (finally, finally out in paperback), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, will make you want to devour it whole in mere seconds--it's just that tasty. I'm always hesitant to assign the term "young adult" to any book for fear that it will stigmatize it for potential "adult" readers; so please take heed that this book is for any one of any age who has gone through or is currently suffering through the whirlwind of emotions, hormones and drama that we call "growing up."

The story's narrator, Junior, was born on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and let's just say that poor Junior was born plagued by such a multitude of medical anomalies that it's a wonder he can perform even the most basic physical acts, let alone form coherent sentences. But, form coherent sentences he does (and laugh-out-loud funny ones at that), and through his diary entries, which are complemented by Junior's own comic drawings, we follow a small chunk of his teen life on the rez. Determined to get a good education, our Junior decides to leave the reservation school and attend an all-white school in a neighboring town. He is so determined, in fact, that even though his parents are rarely sober enough to drive him to school, he still shows up every day, at times having walked the 20 or so miles from the rez to the town of Reardan.

The Absolutely True Diary is sharp, witty, sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting, and what makes it such a gem of a book is its honesty and its poignancy. Junior may be cracking jokes left and right, but the desperation of his situation is always evident--he does not mince words and he does not sugarcoat. He merely has a candid outlook on his situation--one that shifts between defeat and hope and all the inbetweens. It's one of those books I wish I could read again for the first time, if only to experience the suprise and delight at discovering such an endearing and memorable character as Junior.

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