Sunday, May 3, 2015

The absolutely true dairy of a part-time Indian - Sherman Alexie

If I start reading a book I've got a habit of reading it fully whether it is good or bad..But some time back 'The Catcher in the rye' forced me to break that practice..Somehow,I was too impatient towards the narration..Now when I was reading 'The Absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian' I felt the narration was so similar to that book..But the difference here is,I loved this one..I remembered Oscar Wilde's quote somehow,"If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.”...The Author simply followed that rule in his semi-autobiographical work..Despite of many heartbreaking revelations,Author Sherman Alexie maintained the witty narration throughout the book.

Image courtesy Google
This is the story of a fourteen year old young boy Arnold Spirit Jr. known as Junior from Spokane Indian reservation (Native Americans) in Wellpinit..This weird boy with few physical disabilities(a huge head and very little body),lives with his father,mother,sister and grandmother..Rowdy was his best buddy and Eugone his uncle..Drawing comics was Junior's hobby..Junior refers to his home reservation as 'the rez'..In many ways, Junior is engulfed by the emotional realities of his life and his community..Like many other families in the rez,his family was also very poor and Junior's parents,Rowdy's father,and others in their community are alcohol addicts..They get in to that habit to escape from their cursed lives..Eventually Junior's family suffers the lose of his grandmother and sister because of that habit..At one point he says, "I'm fourteen years old and I've been to forty-two funerals," Junior says. "That's really the biggest difference between Indians and white people." In the community if Wellpinit, everyone is related, everyone is valued, everyone lives a hardscrabble life, everyone is at risk for early death, and the loss of one person is a loss to the community. Compare Wellpinit to Reardan, whose residents have greater access to social services, health care, and wealth, and people are socially distanced from each other."

Junior's ordinary life takes a tremendous turn when he decides to join the White's school in Reardan..By then he is the only Indian boy in Reardan school other than the school Mascot...Nevertheless,in that school,he become friends with beautiful Penelope,the Giant boy-Roger and and the genius-Gordy who respect him and stand by his side..Besides,his community turns against him for his decision..Rowdy starts hating him,also he stands against him in Basket ball match..Now the question is,whether Junior succeeds in erasing his odd man out image from Whites community ? Whether he would be accepted back from his Wellpinit community for his betrayal as an Indian ? When we got to the end of the book,where Arnold and Rowdy play basketball,the result of the game leads to further consequences in the story..The book is about Junior's internal struggle as a member of Spokane Indian reservation who was helplessly living a life without dreams,opportunities or any possibilities..This is his battle against racism and white power structure..Apart from the hilarious narration,beautiful comics given by Ellen Forney at suitable situations is one of the best part of the book..The language used is so simple and purely native American..Motivating and amusing yet intense and piercing this 'National book award' winning work is one of the best in young adult fiction..

By drawing cartoons, Junior feels safe. He says,
I draw because words are too unpredictable. I draw because words are too limited. If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning.But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it.

He describes his home reservation with great sarcasm as "located approximately one million miles north of Important and two billion miles west of Happy."

"It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing that you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it. Poverty doesn't give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor."

Sherman Alexie-Image Courtesy Google
 Here are few lines from the book,

And trust me, there are times when the last thing you want to hear is the truth.

Rowdy and I are inseparable. 'Because Geometry Is Not a Country Somewhere Near France'

He smiled mysteriously. Adults are so good at smiling mysteriously. Do they go to  college for that?

Gordy said. "If you're good at it, and you love it, and it helps you navigate the river of the world, then it can't be wrong."

"Okay, so it's like each of these books is a mystery. Every single book is a mystery. And if you read all the books ever written, it's like you've read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you just keep on learning there is so much more you need to learn.

Travelling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the little white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger.I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.It was like being Indian was my job, but it was only a part-time job. And it didn't pay well at all.

Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community.

I used to think the world was broken down by tribes," I said. "By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn't true. The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not.

Here are Junior's favourite books,I made a list of my favorite books: 1. The Grapes of Wrath 2. Catcher in the Rye 3. Fat Kid Rules the World 4. Tangerine 5. Feed 6. Catalyst 7. Invisible Man    8.Fools Crow 9. Jar of Fools.


AmitAag said...

Very interesting!

Saru Singhal said...

I will borrow it from the library. Looks quite a read.

lifestalker said...

though i haven't read part-time indian, but have read many positive reviews about this book. Will get my copy as soon as I finish ruffling with my exams. though i stop here because i also want to make a confession, I have also not finished Catcher in the Rye, it is lying somewhere don't know where. But personally I also not recommend someone to read the book.

Mak said...

I haven't read any in recent times. Seems like a good read. Thank you!