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I know we read a chapter from Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, in class, but after reading that I decided to pick the book up again. I read it once about five years ago and I remember really liking it, and something about the way Alexie writes this story drew me in yet again. TATDPTI is about a kid named Junior who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. Like many Native American’s, Junior’s family struggles with money, alcoholism, and depression, and Junior struggles socially as well. He’s smart and he tries and he wants to do something with his life someday, however, he feels very trapped on the reservation. He sees his parents and older sister going nowhere, and he fears he will suffer the same fate. As he’s about to start high school, Junior decides he’s had enough, and makes the choice to leave the reservation and attend the all-white high school in Reardan, a small town about 22 miles outside of the reservation. He thinks this move will help him to make something of his life. He finds himself the only Native American at Reardan and on the reservation, everyone considers him white. Junior becomes an outsider not only at his new school, but on the reservation as well. The novel follows Junior through his freshman year of highschool as he deals with normal high school things, like falling in love and having his first girlfriend, and not-so-normal highschool things, like attending three funerals within several weeks of each other.
In writing this post, I would be remiss if I did not disclose the controversial nature of this book. Suffice to say, this book is not for everyone. Pretty much since it was published it has been on the banned book list. There are plenty of reasons for this, foul language and violence being just a few. So, why bother with this book? Well, I wouldn’t have read it if I thought it was one of those books that uses foul language “just because”, or that includes violence for shock value alone. In this case I believe that the somewhat controversial aspects of this book are included because it keeps the story realistic. There is no way you can have a character go through all of the things that Junior has and not let him curse the world at times. It’s this realistic, raw, and gritty approach to the story that is - in a way - refreshing to readers. They appreciate the vulnerability of Junior, who will punch his best friend in the face in one sentence and begin to cry about it in the very next. We can relate to this character because, sometimes, we are him. We all have moments where we feel exposed, living on an emotional roller coaster. We have those moments where just get so overwhelmed we feel like a volcano about to erupt. We’re human.