Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Uncensored Librarians: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

You may know and admire Sherman Alexie for his books for adults, but he’s also made a brilliant foray into young adult literature with his semi-autobiographical novel, The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian. This book is about Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a 14-year-old growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Dissatisfied with his prospects if he stays in the reservation school, Junior chooses to attend the nearest white school instead. Daily he makes the twenty-two mile journey to a place where he doesn’t fit in and returns, branded a traitor.
Junior has the soul of a poet and the pen of a comic artist. His cartoon illustrations pepper his story which touches on things every teen faces (friends, sports, dating, identity, parents, school, etc.) and things only some teens face (violence, poverty, alcoholism, discrimination, and death). It’s an incredibly powerful book, making you laugh out loud on one page and devastating you on the next. The audio version, read by the author, is particularly moving as his voice is infused with emotion you believe he must have actually felt as a 14-year-old.

In this novel about social injustice, struggle for identity, Indian culture, and coming of age, perhaps the most universal theme is self-empowerment, that with courage, ambition, persistence, and hard work, you can change your life. Certainly, for teens, this is an important message. Despite the amazing message and spirit of this book, it is one of the most frequently challenged books of 2010. It was banned from the curriculum and removed from the high school library by the Stockton, Missouri School Board which said “that it had too much profanity to be of value.” A teen who spoke in support of the book at the school board meeting described its value perfectly: “This book in a nutshell is about hope. It’s about overcoming adversity. This book is about believing in yourself, believing you can become whatever you want to become.”

Rebecca - Teen Zone

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