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review 2017-11-12 14:14
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian ★★★☆☆
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie,Ellen Forney

I had heard so much about this book that I’ve really been looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t connect with it. I understand that it’s semi-autobiographical, so it must be an accurate portrayal of a 14-year-old boy’s thoughts and concerns. And teenage boys are a little bit gross. So maybe that’s why I was a bit put off by it – the MC’s relationships with and reactions to the female characters are definitely off-putting, no matter how realistic, and the humor, while perhaps accurate to the 14-year-old protagonist, is also juvenile. But the story itself is both funny and sad, that of a boy living on the “rez” and dealing with the fallout of asking to transfer to a town school where he will be the only non-white student. The book doesn’t pull punches in portraying alcoholism, violence, bullying, tribalism, and racism. It’s a lot to pack into a relatively short book. But the ending contains a redeeming message of hope, too, which helps to rescue a story that threatens to sink under the weight of these heavy themes.

 

Hardcover version. I read this book for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 11: December 21st-22nd. Soyal (December 21st) is the winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopi (Hopitu Shinumu), The Peaceful Ones, also known as the Hopi Indians. It is held on the shortest day of the year to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR– a book that has a Native American protagonist. This book fits the square, as the main character is Native American.

 

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text 2017-11-11 04:16
16 Festive Tasks: Sq 11 Dec 21st-22nd: Soyal
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie,Ellen Forney

 

Soyal (December 21st) is the winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopi (Hopitu Shinumu), The Peaceful Ones, also known as the Hopi Indians. It is held on the shortest day of the year to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. 

Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR– a book that has a Native American protagonist.

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review 2017-10-22 17:13
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie,Ellen Forney

Hilarious, sad, beautifully written, Alexie uses his own experiences as an adolescent to tell the story of a Native American boy trying to escape the life those around him would trap him in. 

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review 2017-10-12 17:34
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir - Sherman Alexie

This is an unusual book and not what I expected, so my rating may not predict yours (as readers so far have loved it wildly, it probably doesn’t). I hadn’t read anything by Alexie before and chose this over Part-Time Indian because I enjoy memoirs but not YA. But this is far from a typical memoir, which tells the story of the author’s life – usually focusing on a particular aspect or theme – in chronological chapters. The first chapter, which has 19 pages and focuses – despite various digressions – on a crucial event from the author’s childhood, fits into that pattern and had me enthralled. But this is in no way representative of the book as a whole. It consists of 156 chapters, ranging from short to extremely short (though the page count may appear long for a memoir, I’d guess the word count is in line with that of your typical 250- to 300-page book). Half of the chapters are poems. The prose chapters are sometimes only a paragraph long, more commonly 2-4 pages.

These brief essays and poems don’t exactly tell the story of Alexie’s life. He wrote the book while grieving for his mother, and much of it revolves around her, but much of it (especially the poetry) is about grief itself. Another big topic is a brain surgery he had a few months after his mother’s death. So much of the book comes across as the author reflecting on his life as it is now rather than telling the story of where he’s been. To the extent it’s about where he’s been, information about his childhood is scattered throughout the book, while everything after that is even more partial and fragmented. Or maybe it’s just that the information about his adult life didn’t answer the questions I had: he mentions only in passing that he struggled with alcoholism as a young adult, causing him to change colleges, but writes an entire chapter about how the laundry room in his current home was extremely cold until he finally bought some curtains for the basement.

Meanwhile, I have little appreciation for poetry, particularly free verse, which much of Alexie’s poetry is. If there’s something to be said for free verse, it’s that it is a recognized format in which to briefly encapsulate a moment, a thought or a feeling. But this is a large book; I didn’t want brief. And I didn’t want fragments. This book is made up of fragments, which is a deliberate and valid artistic choice: Alexie writes about how much of his history – personal, familial, and cultural – has been lost, and leaving holes is his way of representing that. For me though, the effect was to leave me disconnected from the work, which lessened the impact of the artistic choices.

All that said, this is in no way a bad book. It is well-written and engaging. It is raw and personal and feels emotionally honest. I zoomed through it in a few sittings, not only because bite-sized chapters are addictive but because it is so personal and emotionally intense. It certainly provides some cultural education for the non-native reader: the author grew up on the Spokane Indian reservation, where much of his family still lives, and writes about his Native American identity. Although it left me somewhat dissatisfied, I am glad I read this book and wouldn’t discourage others from reading it, particularly those who enjoy poetry.

(As an aside, a brief mention in this book alerted me to the danger of indoor radon, so who knows, Sherman Alexie may have saved my life.)

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review 2017-08-20 00:00
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie,Ellen Forney This story was so much more than I was expecting. It's about a boy growing up on an Indian reservation. Life and the future don't look bright for those living there. So many sad things happen to him, but the story is told in such an upbeat way. It feels so honest. You can't help but love him and his views. I really enjoyed this one and recommend it.
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