Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) is my favorite literary character and he lives in the world of my favorite book, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. In this semi-autobiographical tale, Alexie tells the story of 14 year-old Junior, a Spokane Indian growing up on a reservation in Washington State. After being suspended from school for throwing a book at a teacher, the teacher convinces him to leave the rez (“to take [his] hope and go somewhere where other people have hope.” p. 43). Junior enrolls in Reardan, a highly regarded high school 22 miles from the rez, where the student body is entirely white and the mascot is an Indian. The story of Junior’s life during his first year off rez at Reardan is told from Junior’s perspective via his cartoon-enhanced diary entries (artwork by Ellen Forney). Junior writes about a wide range of topics from racism, poverty, alcoholism, loss, family, bullying, not fitting in, girls, books, basketball, school, tradition, etc with thought-provoking language that at times made me laugh and at time made me cry (and occasionally did both).
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is filled with inspiring quote-worthy commentary; an almost overwhelming number of words from this book have made it into my goodreads favorite quotes. One of my favorite moments in the story was recently used as an example for why the book should be banned. This favorite moment of mine features a conversation between Gordy and Junior about the wonder of books and learning. As Gordy says, “‘The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.” (p.97). He thinks that we should approach each book and life itself open to the idea that at any time we could get a metaphorical boner (can you guess which part of this those who ban/challenge the book have a problem with?).
In a recent banning of the book in Stockton, MO, one school board member claimed that the book contained too much profanity to be of value. A high school student who attended a forum on the book’s banning said “This book in a nutshell is my hope….It’s not about giving up. It’s about not letting people tell you you’re not worth it.” (News-Leader.com) How can a book of no value give a young person hope? How can a book of no value make me think and learn and feel?
I highly suggest this book to EVERYONE, even those who think writing about masturbation (enthusiastically yet ungraphically) warrants a book valueless. Junior’s friend Gordy believes that in order to really know a book, you have to read it three times. I wonder how many times those supporting the ban of the book read it?
Don’t forget to enter your reviews of frequently banned or challenged books in our Banned Books Month giveaway!