Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is Sherman Alexie's first foray into the world of young-adult novels. Pray, adult reader, put that unfortunate misnomer out of your mind. The cover art is perfectly mature and therefore there is no shame in adult readers reading it, even in public. In fact, there is not only no shame, there is total necessity if you have any appreciation for a good story well told. The narrator of Alexie's novel, Arnold Spirit Junior, is an endearing 14-year-old whose life, replete with water on the brain and seizures, is based loosely on Alexie's boyhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Brilliant and much-abused, Junior decides to attend high school in the town of Reardon, a painful 22 miles away and a world apart from his life on the rez. Junior and the school mascot are the only Indians at his new school. With a healthy helping of humor and genuine self-deprecation (and illustrations by Ellen Forney), Alexie relays Junior's struggles to fit in without succumbing to the hopelessness that plagues the adults in his life. In his description of his personal history of fistfights, Junior recalls, "One bully, Micah, made me beat up myself. Yes, he made me punch myself in the face three times. I am the only Indian in the history of the world who ever lost a fight with himself." It's hard not to cheer for Junior and, by proxy, Alexie himself.
Sat., Oct. 6, 5 p.m., 2007

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