I've been wanting to read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for quite a while; I finally bought it last week in Spokane, at Auntie's Bookstore, and promptly dove into reading it. (The big display for Alexie's books, him being a local author, likely helped drive my impulse to buy it this week.)
It might be a "young adult" novel, but as far as I'm concerned, it is a story worth reading by anyone of any age. It's a first-person account of a teenage boy who lives on the Spokane Indian reservation who jumps as the chance to "escape" by going to school in a small white town, about 20 miles away.
Through his witty and geeky manner of speech - that drips with self-deprivation - as well as his drawings and sketches (drawn by Ellen Forney), we learn a lot about what life is like on an Indian reservation and what it's like to live in poverty:
"We reservation Indians don't get to realize our dreams. We don't get those chances. Or choices. We're just poor. That's all we are ... Poverty doesn't give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor."
We journey with Junior over the course of the school year, as he fights with his best friend, tries to fit in with the white culture, and other tribulations of his year. Yet, through the entire story, Junior never gets too depressed. He never seems to lose sight of his goals or dreams, and he still has a grasp on reality, too.
The book is full of aphorisms worth noting:
"If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing."
"I used to think the world was broken down by tribes. By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn't true. The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not."
"Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community."
A great - and pretty quick - read. Perfect for when you're home over the holidays.