Today we are going to talk about August’s book of the month, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sheman Alexie. But first, let’s check out this book and see what it is all about.
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.
Questions to think about and/or answer:
1. Consider the adjectives, “absolutely true” and “part-time.” What concepts appear to be emphasized by the images and the title? Does the cover appear to reference Junior’s internal struggle, or a struggle between Junior and the white power structure, or both, or neither?
2. By drawing cartoons, Junior feels safe. He draws “because I want to talk to the world. And I want the world to pay attention to me.” How do Junior’s cartoons (for example, “Who my parents would have been if somebody had paid attention to their dreams” and “white/Indian”) show his understanding of the ways that racism has deeply impacted his and his family’s lives?
3. When Junior is in Reardan (the white town), he is “half Indian,” and when he is in Wellpinit (his reservation), he is “half white.” “It was like being Indian was my job,” he says, “but it was only a part-time job. And it didn’t pay well at all.” At Reardan High, why does Junior pretend he has more money than he does, even though he knows “lies have short shelf lives”?
(Questions from Guide – Hachette Book Group)
“Alexie nimbly blends sharp wit with unapologetic emotion in his first foray into young adult literature.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“For 15 years now, Sherman Alexie has explored the struggle to survive between the grinding plates of the Indian and white worlds. He’s done it through various characters and genres, but The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian may be his best work yet. Working in the voice of a 14-year-old forces Alexie to strip everything down to action and emotion, so that reading becomes more like listening to your smart, funny best friend recount his day while waiting after school for a ride home.” —Bruce Barcott of The New York Times
Mocha Girls Speak
This is a really bittersweet story about a young Indian boy who changes his life just by deciding to go to school in the all white town and not on the Indian reservation.
Many of the stories are funny and there are cute little cartoons, drawn by the narrator that allow the reader to further understand his feelings. But the novel is also very sad in that it portrays Indian reservations as places where alcohol abuse dominates and hope is practically nonexistent. The status quo is acceptable and those who try to do better for themselves, like the narrator does, can be shunned by the community.
Anyway, on the whole, the book is sweet, sad and funny…like life and would be really good for pre-teens and teens to read.
Mocha Girl Jayla
This book has been added to my list of favorites. There are very few books that have made me laugh out loud and this book is one of them. It was a nice balance of humor and serious elements. One thing I did find interesting was that the thought process of Jr. didn’t come off as that of a 14-year-old boy. He seemed much older. Other than that I think that everyone, no matter your age, race, or ethnicity, can benefit from reading this book.For me, at least, it reinforced the idea that I should always stick to who I am in terms of my likes/dislikes and hopes/dreams. The novel was phenomenal and worthy of the National Book Award.
Mocha Girl Charlene
Paperback: 229 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2009)
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