Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianTitle: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  
Author: Sherman Alexie  
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2007 
Genre/Format: Teen Issues-Fiction/Novel 
Summary: Junior is growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation when he decides he will leave the rez to get a better education by attending an all-white high school that is 22 miles away.  This book tells his story as he deals with adolescence and trying to find his place in the world. 
What I Think: I listened to this book on audio a little over two years ago (May, 2008) and as I opened the book to read through and look at the language in this book I instantly remembered hearing Sherman Alexie's voice as he narrated the book.  He has an accent and a kind of lilt to his voice that is unforgettable.  This is definitely a book I would recommend listening to because it adds so much to the book and to the character.  I'm not good at "hearing" a character's voice in my head as I read, I usually hear my own voice unless it's a biography of someone famous or of an author I've heard before.  Here is a snip of audio from Sherman Alexie's website that is a perfect excerpt from the book to share.
     I chose to review this book (even though I read it a couple of years ago) because it is on this year's banned books list.  It's amazing to me that this book is on the banned books list but has won numerous awards and been chosen as the best book of the year by various groups.  I do remember cracking up as I listened to this book and I kind of remember thinking it was a high school level book because of the content and language, but it doesn't ever need to be banned.  As I flipped through the pages I remembered why I would recommend it to an older student - because the main character is a teenage boy who thinks like a teenage boy and expresses those teenage boy thoughts in the book.  Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this, and I think it's healthy for teenage boys to be able to read a book like this and relate to what he is dealing with, but I would hesitate to recommend this to one of my 7th or 8th graders, maybe to an end-of-the-year mature 8th grade reader, maybe.
     For high schoolers, I think this book is great!  I think it's important to read books about people from different cultures and to be able to gain some perspective about their lives.  I think the fact that our country forced people onto reservations is a sad part of our history and I feel like the repercussions of that are not often portrayed in mainstream culture...have you ever seen a sit-com set on a reservation?  Me either!  Alexie does a good job of writing a hysterical book with a character you can't help but love while also portraying life on a reservation.  
Read Together: 9 - 12 (I don't think I would choose to read this aloud myself, I might read parts of it or play parts of the audio for students-see above-because the writing is so good and/or booktalk it.) 
Read Alone: 9 - 12 
Read With: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie By David Lubar; King Dork By Frank Portman; Spanking Shakespeare By Jake Wizner; Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie or Notes From The Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick; I Am the Messenger By Markus Zusak 
Snatch of Text: "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." p. 6
     "Last week, my best friend Oscar got really sick.
     At first, I thought he just had heat exhaustion or something.  I mean, it was a crazy-hot July day (102 degrees with 90 percent humidity), and plenty of people were falling over from heat exhaustion, so why not a little dog wearing a fur coat?" p. 9   *Good for inferring who Oscar is.*
     "I was hot mad.  Volcano mad.  Tsunami mad.
     Dad just looked down at me with the saddest look in his eyes.  He was crying.  He looked weak.
     I wanted to hate him for his weakness.
     I wanted to hate Dad and Mom for our poverty.
     I wanted to blame them for my sick dog and for all the other sickness in the world."  p. 11
     "Can you imagine what would have happened to me if I'd turned around and gone back to the rez school?
    I would have been pummeled.  Mutilated.  Crucified.
     You can't just betray your tribe and then change your mind ten minutes later.  I was on a one-way bridge.  There was no way to turn around, even if I wanted to."  p. 55
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions, Making Inferences, Making Predictions, Visualizing 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Anaphora, Metaphor, Descriptive, $100 Words, Slang, Voice
Writing Prompts: After reading pages 9 - 14, write about a time when you felt disappointed in yourself, someone else, or something - use anaphora like Sherman does to add emphasis to your writing.
Topics Covered: Spokane Indians, Reservations, Family, Friendship, Bullies, Poverty, Love, Adversity,  Courage, Prejudice, Death, Disability, Taking Risks  
Translated to Spanish: Yes! Here's the link to Diario completamente verídico de un indio a tiempo parcial, although it seems like it might be hard to get your hands on.  Bummer.
This book review is posted in honor of ALA Banned Books Week 2010.

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