Monday, February 17, 2014

Book talk: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

High school is hard, but if you're Arnold Spirit -- "Junior," to everyone -- you're the only Native American at a high school full of mostly white kids. Smart, beautiful white kids who have money and nice clothes and cars and parents with jobs.

Junior is poor. Junior was born with a big head and should've died at birth because he had problems with his brain. He has a lisp, a stutter, ugly clothes, an alcoholic dad, and a best friend - Rowdy - who will not speak to him. Junior lives on a reservation -- called "the rez" -- and he knows that being poor and Indian really, really sucks. Forgive my language. I'm just quoting him.

From the time he was born, Junior has had to struggle for his survival. Everything he has, he has had to fight for, whether literally or physically fist-fight for. On the first day of high school on the rez, Junior picked up a textbook. When he saw the name inside, he realized the textbook was over 30 years old. That's what the Indian kids get: not even second-best. The dregs. It angered Junior so much that he threw the textbook, and it hit his teacher right in the face, resulting in a suspension for Junior.

Every cloud has a silver lining -- sometimes even for Indians -- and the teacher convinced Junior to attend a better school, named Rearden, twenty-two miles away from the reservation. You know how poor Junior is? He often has to hitchhike those 22 miles to and from school. A few times he walked the whole way, and he got blisters. It was awful. You try being the only Indian in a school full of whites. See how long YOU last.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. 230 p.
2008 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Fiction. 2010 Young Readers' Choice Award.
Booktalk to high school.

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