Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 2007.
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 14-year-old Arnold (Junior) Spirit fights racism and his tribe’s anger as he tries to escape the alcoholism, depression, and death of life as a reservation Native American. I can see why this book received so much attention. The story is compelling, the situation fascinating. I both love and don't love it. The LOVE is obvious, but some thoughts on the not-love:
The first-person voice uses hyperbole primarily to mask suffering with humor. Often the humor is self-deprecating in the extreme (and redundant), is blunt, and lays out themes directly. No guessing about the problems that will be explored (or rather, hammered).
One small factual issue: the kid wears eyeglasses thick as the bottoms of soda bottles. So why is he getting punched in the face so much? And how did he get a black eye without getting glass in it? And wouldn’t his glasses fly off on the court? Hmmm.
There were occasional soap boxes and side trips that I felt detracted, and the “lightness” was almost too much. I felt it was akin to some of the photographs in What Have You Lost. Disrespectful of pain, glib, even mocking. The humor dampens what little sense is present of Arnold truly caring for his people/identifying with them. I read it as: Arnold is a nomad, shaking his head in disgust, knocking the dirt off his sandals as he hikes out of town, which to me, while perhaps realistic, is disrespectful of his culture in the extreme. He should read Birchbark House to rediscover some of his people’s beauty and nobility, I think.