Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Genre: Young Adult | Humor
Release Date: September 12th, 2007

This is a book about modern day Indians. No, we're not talking about those guys from India. We're talking about Christopher Columbus's Red Indians. The main protagonist of this story, Arnold "Spirit" Junior is a Native American/ Indian who lives on a Spokane reservation. He's got problems that make the rest of ours seem trivial in comparison. Despite that he strives to make the most of what he's got. In order to do that though, he has to go school outside of the a school dominated by white people.

This creates a huge furor on the reservation. The Indians see Junior as a traitor and ostracize him. His best friend on the reservation Rowdy abandons him. Heck, even the white kids at his new school don't accept him save for a few exceptions.

This book is full of racism. By that I mean the racist attitudes and actions of WHITE people toward Indians. That's right, not only weren't they happy with taking all that land those centuries ago, they still have to put a brother down just to make themselves feel superior. However, the author manages to tone down the seriousness of the racism by injecting some tongue in cheek humor and some old fashioned butt-whooping.

"Hey, Chief," Roger said. "You want to hear a joke?"
"Sure," I said.
"Did you know that Indians are living proof that niggers fuck buffalo?"
I felt like Roger had kicked me in the face. That was the most racist thing I'd ever heard in my life.
Roger and his friends were laughing like crazy. I hated them. And I knew I had to do something big. I couldn't let them get way with that shit. I wasn't just defending myself. I was defending Indians, black people, and buffalo.
So I punched Roger in the face.
He wasn't laughing when he landed on his ass. And he wasn't laughing when his nose bled like red fireworks.
I struck some fake karate pose because I figured Roger's gang was going to attack me for bloodying their leader.
But they just stared at me.
They were shocked."You punched me," Roger said. His voice was thick with blood. "I can't believe you punched me."
He sounded insulted.
He sounded like his poor little feelings had been hurt.
I couldn't believe it.
He acted like he was the one who'd been wronged.
"You're an animal," he said.

Youch. The bit about defending the honor of buffaloes is awesome. xD It's not all about the social divide between Indians and Whites. There are good people on both sides, and there are the racists. As Junior aptly said:

"I used to think the world was broken down by tribes, by black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn't true. The world is only broken into two tribes. The people who are assholes and the people who are not."

Amen Brother. My favorite quotes include the following:

i)...our white dentist believed that Indians only felt half as much pain as white people did, so he only gave us half the Novocain.
What a bastard, huh?

ii) My head was so big that little Indian skulls orbited around it. Some of the kids called me Orbit. And other kids just called me Globe. The bullies would pick me up, spin me in circles, put their finger down on my skull, and say, "I want to go there."

 iii) "I'm only an alcoholic when I get drunk." (This one is actually a drawing, but I couldn't find a copy of it on the internet and I was too lazy to scan it. =P

Cover: 8
Characters: 8.5
Story: 9

Overall:  8.75/10
Comment: This is truly a coming of age story that shines far above the rest. Despite having multiple instances of profanity (tons actually) and some not so discreet references to masturbation and sex, True Diary is a hilarious read. The witty writing and extremely goofy drawings (did I mention that Junior is an epic cartoonist?) had me laughing until the last page. The book was also banned by multiple libraries and schools, which gives it the seal of approval from me. Hey, if they don't want you to read it, it's most likely too awesome for them. =P