Happy St. Patrick's Day, and if you're on spring break like me, I hope you are enjoying your time off! No exciting vacations planned for me this spring break, instead I'm getting ahead on some grad school homework. Next week in my Library Materials for Young Adults class we are focusing on multicultural literature, which includes an assigned reading of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I decided to get a head start on the novel, and it turned out to be quite the enjoyable spring break read!
This coming-of-age story focuses on a 14-year-old Spokane Indian boy named Arnold Spirit Jr., also known as Junior. Junior, a budding cartoonist, and his family have spent their whole lives living on the Spokane Indian Reservation, a place plagued by destitute poverty, violence and alcoholism. With some strong encouragement from his reservation high school teacher, Junior realizes that he needs to leave the reservation if he ever wants to make a better life for himself, so he transfers to an all-white high school in nearby Reardan, Washington.
Throughout the novel, Junior struggles with his personal identity, proclaiming himself half-white, half-Native American – depending on whether he was at school or home on the reservation. As if figuring out who he was, is and will be, isn't hard enough, Junior must come to terms with sudden and tragic deaths of close family members and a ruined friendship with Rowdy, his best pal from the reservation.
A hope-inspiring Bildungsroman, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian highlights contemporary challenges facing Native American reservation inhabitants with compassionate sensitivity and witty humor, as seen in the book's 65 cartoons "drawn" by Junior (actually illustrated by Ellen Forney). This creative story with its strong and unique voice will leave readers cheering for Junior well after the final page of the book.
Awards for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
2007 – National Book Award for Young People's Literature
2007 – School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
2008 – One of YALSA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
2008 – Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Fiction and Poetry
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Tessa Fox is the Early Literacy Librarian at the Kenosha Public Library. After working in the journalism and publishing fields, Tessa decided to dedicate her life to books and public librarianship, and went back to school to get her Master's in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she graduated in December 2016. Tessa has been working in public libraries since 2014. Disclaimer: The views expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect those of my employer.
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