Sunday, August 17, 2008

the many disadvantages

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: YA
Review: How many disadvantages can one person overcome? Junior, the narrator of this book, overcomes several disabilities at birth, and then must overcome the physical manifestations of those disabilities (oversize head, lisp, stutter, etc.) for the rest of his life. On top of that he faces the disadvantages that come with being a member of the Spokane Indian tribe: poverty, endemic alcoholism, and general hopelessness.

But Junior is a determined and very smart kid. Taking the advice of one of his teachers at the reservation school, Junior decides to attend the white school 22 miles away. Here he overcomes the disadvantages of prejudice at his new school and the fact that many people on the reservation, including his erstwhile best friend, consider him a traitor.

The story of overcoming so many disadvantages could easily become trite. But not in the hands of Sherman Alexie. In this semiautobiographical novel, Alexie gives his narrator such an engaging voice (not to mention Ellen Forney's drawings) that there is nothing trite about this book. This story rings true no matter what culture you come from, or what your personal disadvantages may be.

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