Young Adult Lit/Crit

January 30, 2008

Sherman Alexie: keeping it real

Filed under: Uncategorized — scrollman @ 4:44 pm

I read Diary of a Part-Time Indian last night in one sitting, and after I finished it, I thought about what made the book so enjoyable and profound: the perception of honesty.   Masturbation, farting, bowl movements; these are topics that many of us might be too embarrassed to write about, but Alexie isn’t afraid to reveal his character in all of his emotional, bodily, and spiritual glory.  By laying it all out there, keeping it real, we begin to grow attached to this young man, and take what he says to heart.  I don’t know if this is an “absolutely” true story or not (the basketball drama was a little over the top) but Arnold, as a literary creation, is a very “real” person.  At no time in the novel did I ever disbelieve him, or feel the writer’s presence as separate from Arnold’s.  In some ways, this book is very much like Catcher in the Rye, as both Salinger and Alexie completely disappear and all we see are Holden and Arnold.   I don’t think it’s coincidental that Arnold’s second favorite book is Catcher in the Rye (could it be Alexie’s too?) , as his natural way of writing so clearly reflects the influence of Holden (Oops, I mean Salinger)- which is kind of my whole point here.  When I read Catcher in the Rye in high school, I thought Holden was Salinger and vica versa.  It was only when I read Salinger’s other novels that I realized Holden was a creation.  In Arnold, Alexie has created someone of flesh, blood, and spirit.  He has breathed life into the page, and as you’re reading the book, Arnold might as well be your best friend, or your brother, or your son, or your student.  What a great gift.

Jonathan (the guy who was absent last week- looking forward to meeting all of you)

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1 Comment »

  1. Jonathan

    I agree with your post completely! I was trying to figure out what it was about the book that made it so interesting for me and it was the raw humor. At times I was shocked, but at the same time, as a reader, I can appreciate the honesty as well. I think this book exemplifies the kind of story that teens need to be able to access. There are so many issues that readers can potentially identify with, such as poverty, alcoholism, discrimination, puberty, death, friendship, etc., and I think kids deserve to be able to read stories about these issues that aren’t censored. I look forward to talking about this text with everyone tonight.

    Comment by mandygrl101 — January 31, 2008 @ 4:12 pm


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