Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Banned Books Club #1)

 Banned for vulgarity, racism, and anti-Christian content. Stars

“I used to think the world was broken down by tribes,' I said. 'By Black and White. By Indian and White. But I know this isn't true. The world is only broken into two tribes: the people who are assholes and the people who are not.” - Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, page 176 

Scrolling down the page on Goodreads, I feel like I'm the only person in the world who didn't particuarly enjoy this book. 

Personally, I felt like this read more like MG than YA. Not in terms of content, but in terms of style. I didn't like how the character relationships were built either. Arnold/Junior literally walks into his classroom on his first day at his new all-white school and immediately develops a crush on Penelope for no apparent reason. Later, they start sort-of dating after a grand total of three interactions. He becomes friends with Gordy simply by asking. The exceptions to this were his relationships with Rowdy and Roger. His friendship with Rowdy is at the heart of the story. When he makes his decision to attend a different school, Rowdy feels betrayed, and it takes the rest of the novel for them to even begin fixing that rift. As for Roger, I was confused at first by the fact that when Arnold/Junior punched him he didn't hit back. It took a while for me to realise that he was simply too shocked. After all, he's a popular senior. When he made that racist comment, he probably wasn't expecting the new kid to try and break his nose. What I do wonder though is if Arnold/Junior is simply an exception to him. Roger is far from the only racist character in the story and he was likely repeating something he'd heard either at home or in the wider community, and that makes me think that he might still be racist to other people. 

This book covers a lot of heavy topics. Racism is an obvious one - it's actually been banned on those grounds before, which is ironic considering that the novel is about how prejudice and discrimination puts people like Arnold/Junior at a disadvantage. Poverty and alcoholism are rife on the reservation, and their school is underfunded too. The narrator is incensed to realise that he's learning from the same textbook his mother used as a student.

Whilst I think this book covers a lot of important topics, I felt like it lacked in narrative aspects. Still, it's a quick read, so don't let me put you off.
"Banned Book Club is a monthly meme at This is Lit to encourage readers to read more challenged and banned books. We’ll pick a challenged book each month and read and review it by the end of the month.

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