A couple weeks ago, I shared my banned book week selection and mentioned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was next. And you know what? It.did.not.disappoint.
And, again, I don’t agree it should be on the banned book list.
Narrated by Junior, a 14-year-old Indian living on a reservation, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is engrossing and fun. Scattered throughout the novel are illustrations done by Junior (or artist Ellen Forney) that add great dimension to the character and are sometimes more revealing than his actual words.
Realizing he won’t get a proper education on the rez, Junior heads to the nearby rich, white high school. Doing so makes him an outcast at the reservation and an outsider at the white high school. Add some medical issues, a community consumed with alcoholism, relatives and friends dying too soon, and a best friend who considers him a traitor, and you find yourself just hoping Junior makes it through his freshman year.
The book ends beautifully. I don’t think I could do it justice by writing about it. But I’ll share one of my favorite illustrations in the book. It’s two young boys holding hands and jumping in a pool. The caption says “Boys can hold hands until they turn nine.” Precious and sad, all at the same time.
Things that made this book land on the banned book list: lots of boner and masturbation talk (hey, he’s a 14-year-old boy!), lots of steroetyping, gay-bashing and homophobic slurs, violence, talk about naked girls (again, 14-year-old boy), and alcohol use. Lots and lots of alcohol use.
There are really sad parts. And really uplifting parts.
As I neared the end of the book, I wondered how this could end well. But it does. And it left me hopeful.