Thursday, October 09, 2008


"In the middle of a crazy and drunk life, you have to hang onto the good and sober moments tightly."
—page 216, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

"Gordy gave me this book by a Russian dude named Tolstoy, who wrote: 'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' Well, I hate to argue with a Russian genius, but Tolstoy didn't know Indians. And he didn't know that all Indian families are unhappy for the same exact reasons: the fricking booze."

—page 200, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Indian is categorized as teen fiction. That is a shame.

It isn't a shame that it is teen fiction, but that its categorization as such will mean that it is not read by very many adults. And, adults need to read this book. It is a powerful book because everyone has been in the shoes of the main character Junior. Okay, maybe not everyone has been a fourteen-year-old Spokane Indian growing up on the reservation. Okay, maybe not everyone was born with hydrocephaly. Okay, maybe not everyone leaves the reservation to attend the "white" high school across town because it will afford him or her with better opportunities of leaving the reservation for good.

But, everyone knows what it is like to struggle with their identity, especially as a teenager. Everyone knows what it it like to lose one's best friend for something you truly believe in. Everyone knows the pain and dysfunction and love that is encompassed by our families. Everyone knows that our parents are flawed, even though most of them are doing their best to raise us to adulthood and teach us the right way to live. Everyone knows the sweet taste of striking out on one's own, of the first flavors of independence. Everyone knows love.

This book is filled with those "everyone" moments, without being cliché with them. Junior's tale is true because it is honest. It is filled with death and loss and seeking and finding and love and joy and sorrow. It is a coming-of-age novel that speaks a universal story. There are bits of Junior in you and me. There are bits of you and me in Junior.

No comments: