Stop, drop, roll yourself to a copy of this book. You need to read it right now. I’ll wait.
You didn’t actually read it yet, did you? Liar.
It is something that escapes my mind quite often, but Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers. The “Diary” is his first Young Adult book, which is to say “Book for all ages over 11.” Everyone should read this book, Let me tell you.
It is about a young man named Arnold Spirit, Jr and his adjustment to a white school. He is fed up with the Reservation school and realizes that if he is to be successful, he needs to go to a better school. He goes. He is successful. That’s really not about it.
Alexie has always been a great resource to learn about Indian life. He doesn’t tell us about dancing and ceremonies, rather, he tells us about life. What you actually feel like when you are an American Indian. The sense of lost hope. The cultural identity being thrown out the window. How much it can really suck. But also, how amazing it can be – at the best of times.
Arnold gets through his days by drawing cartoons. It’s hard not to compare this book to “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” “Wimpy” is just a fun romp with no seriousness or lessons learned, though. “Indian” has lessons a-plenty for those willing to read them. Don’t give up. Take chances. Have hope. Grab life by the balls whenever you can.
And Arnold succeeds. The story is semi-autobiographical of Alexie’s own youth. He did some of these things. Arnold becomes a star basketball player, he finds a hot sometime-girlfriend, he makes real, true friends with the people around him. And people around him die. He is blunt and forward about it and we see what life on a reservation is really like.
He also captures what is like for anyone, anywhere to grow up. Arthur faces challenges he shouldn’t have to, but so do a lot of people. Our challenges are generally nowhere near Arthur’s, but we face them and can learn from Arthur’s stoic attitude. He doesn’t run away from difficult decisions. He makes them.
It is sad to think that this book will probably be banned in some towns. There’s some fairly “inappropriate” stuff in here. You know. Things adolescents actually need help dealing with. Thank God for Librarians. Did you know that most Librarians are extremely opposed to taking books off the shelf? But that’s another post.