The heartbreakingly funny semi-autobiographical story of an American Indian boy who manages to leave the reservation despite overwhelming odds.
Sherman Alexie is an award-winning author, poet and filmmaker, who was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists. One of the most well-known and beloved literary writers of his generation, his works of adult fiction include Reservation Blues and short story collections Ten Little Indians and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. He lives in Seattle.
Screenwriter, novelist and poet, Alexie bounds into YA with what might be a Native American equivalent of Angela's Ashes, a coming-of-age story so well observed that its very rootedness in one specific culture is also what lends it universality, and so emotionally honest that the humor almost always proves painful. Presented as the diary of hydrocephalic 14-year-old cartoonist and Spokane Indian Arnold Spirit Jr., the novel revolves around Junior's desperate hope of escaping the reservation. As he says of his drawings, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He transfers to a public school 22 miles away in a rich farm town where the only other Indian is the team mascot. Although his parents support his decision, everyone else on the rez sees him as a traitor, an apple ("red on the outside and white on the inside"), while at school most teachers and students project stereotypes onto him: "I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other." Readers begin to understand Junior's determination as, over the course of the school year, alcoholism and self-destructive behaviors lead to the deaths of close relatives. Unlike protagonists in many YA novels who reclaim or retain ethnic ties in order to find their true selves, Junior must separate from his tribe in order to preserve his identity. Jazzy syntax and Forney's witty cartoons examining Indian versus White attire and behavior transmute despair into dark humor; Alexie's no-holds-barred jokes have the effect of throwing the seriousness of his themes into high relief. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Arnold "Junior" Spirit, encouraged to want more than the Spokane reservation offers, enrolls in an all-white high school off the rez. To his Indian friends, Junior is a traitor; to white kids, he's a curiosity. Alexie draws us into this semi-autobiographical story of reservation poverty, alcoholism, and the dignity of upholding ancient traditions with poignantly witty prose and well-paced, compelling, and culturally authentic narration deserving of the 2009 Odyssey Award. Standard: Students will be able to recognize and discuss cultural stereotypes depicted in a story. Learning Activity: In a group, students can create a chart that compares and contrasts the similarities and differences between life on and off an Indian reservation. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"A gem of a book ... may be Sherman Alexie's best work yet" New York Times "It's humane, authentic and, most of all, it speaks" Guardian "A remarkable tale that is sure to resonate and lift spirits of all ages to come" USA Today "Emotionally spring-loaded, linguistically gymnastic and devastatingly funny" San Francisco Bay Guardian "A coming-of-age story so well observed that its very rootedness in one specific culture is also what lends its universality" -- starred review Publishers Weekly