Art by Ellen Forney
I don't usually read young adult novels. I'm really partial to middle grade fiction. But when I found out that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, I bought myself a copy.
This book terrified me.
The writing was so honest. The story was so raw and real. The main character, Arnold (Junior) Spirit, was so real.
I was stunned.
This is the story of fourteen-year-old Junior, an Indian living on the Spokane reservation, and his first year in an all-white high school. Junior has to deal with poverty, racism, loneliness, loss, being condemned as a traitor to his people for leaving the "rez," and much more. He goes through A LOT. I couldn't help but cry at one point in the novel.
And yet, this book is laugh-out-loud funny! There are really amusing illustrations. Junior witnesses and experiences tragedies. But he is a really smart, funny, and resilient guy. And there's still a lot of hope in the novel. It certainly ends on a hopeful note. In fact, it's a novel about going after your dreams... or at least making an attempt.
This novel is chock full of revelations about Native Americans and the Native American experience and enlightenment about contemporary adolescence and life in general. Sherman Alexie is such a good writer. His writing is so witty, so beautiful, so fluid.
At first I wondered why The Invention of Hugo Cabret didn't win the National Book Award. Now I know. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a really good book. It's even better than The Invention of Hugo Cabret!
Because of all the pain he has to deal with, Junior's "grieving ceremony" is trying to find the little pieces of joy in his life. He hangs on tightly to good moments. I hope I can be as strong as Junior Spirit. He manages a lot of changes and deaths.
Junior makes lists of what gives him the most joy. Here is a list of some of my "little pieces of joy":
literature for teens
rice, rice, rice, rice! riiiiiice
comments left on my blog
Baking and Books
A Fuse #8 Production
the University of the Philippines Diliman
the resources team (goExplore) of iTi Consulting, Inc.
sleeping in on Saturdays
Sunday worship services
excellence in any form
the sense of fulfillment after hard work