The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by
My book club is way ahead of things. We’re celebrating Banned Books Week in August. (It’s really in September, but we’re overachieving noncomformists.)
Yeah, this is the book that keeps getting challenged/banned. And yeah, it’s by the same guy who wrote the Smoke Signals screenplay.
So I picked this puppy for our book club. And while sitting at the salon with foil on my head, I got completely sucked in.
As often happens, the thing that got me was the voice. This story is told by a boy named Junior (on the rez) or Arnold (off the rez), who’s in the middle of one of those high school existential crises. Thing is, his is for real.
Junior’s grown up on the reservation all his life, and then he decides to attend high school off the rez. Which results in further bloodshed (but maybe not more than he suffered already), the loss of his best friend, and some serious basketball drama on the court. And Junior, an underdog if ever I saw one, turns into way more of a hero than anyone ever expected.
He tells his story in an easy, self-deprecating way, and his compulsion to draw cartoons results in a delightfully illustrated book.
And the guy has plenty to overcome—all kinds of medical problems earlier in life, poverty, an alcoholic father, a runaway sister, deaths of loved ones. And still he manages to hang in there and keep a sense of humor. So in spite of all that nasty drama, I wanted to stay there with this guy because I liked hanging out with him.
And he often does inappropriate laughing, and you gotta love that. (I’m right there with him on that one.)
So all that banning? It’s because there’s talk of masturbation in the book. That’s all. The other stuff in the story is so much more significant that it seems strange to me that someone would keep this book away from the readers who are its intended audience. Of course, banning always seems strange to me. Seriously, people: free country, anyone?
If I hadn’t picked this book for book club, I’d be thanking the person who had. Junior’s a pretty darn delightful young guy, and he makes a person want to be as tough as he is. Not too shabby an endorsement for a teen novel, eh?