Monday, November 26, 2007

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - review

Who won the National Book Award for young people's literature this year? Sherman Alexie did. Yeah, you know it. Sherman Alexie: basketball enthusiast, unabashed heterosexual, thoughtful interview subject, full-time Indian.

I've had The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in my stack since mid-summer - it's one of the few ARC's I've gotten my hands on. But I didn't read it because I've read everything the man's ever written and would recommend any of his books to older teenagers, so I figured that the book he wrote that was intended for teenagers would be solidly great and I could recommend it sight unseen.

I really shouldn't do that, but there just isn't time, you know? I read the ones I'm not sure about first.

So now my man has won the National Book Award, and I finished Halting State by Charles Stross last night (oh my god the jargon!) so I picked up Big Sherm's Big Winnah Book. Read it, cried, laughed, cried, finished it, went to bed happy.

You have got to hand it to Sherman Alexie - he writes books that just motor right along. This book, told in the first person, in no way neglects the main character's feelings and growth, and yet the pace never ever drags.

Who do I recommend this book for? Hm. There is death in this book, and not incidental death, not cartoon violence death. Junior, our protagonist, gets his heart broken by family members and friends, and faces ostracization, poverty, and racism. Through Junior, we hear Sherman Alexie speaking loud and clear about girls, alcohol, economic injustice, and reservation life. It's an emotionally raw book, no question. My copy says 14 and up, and I might agree there. I might not buy it for my son's K-8 library, but I will recommend it to high school students and teachers.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a painfully honest, clear-eyed, yet entertaining account of overcoming obstacles and learning to live with an identity both problematic and precious.