The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Tracy Caruso Reviews One of the Most Banned Books
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a novel by Sherman Alexie, first published in 2007. The book tells the story of Arnold Spirit Jr., a 14-year-old Native American boy living on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State. It has been praised for its honesty, empathy, and humor and for its ability to address serious social and cultural issues in a way that is accessible and engaging for young adult readers. As long as students are over twelve, this is an excellent book for them to read.
This story is based on the author’s experiences growing up on a reservation. This book describes serious topics such as the cycle of poverty, bullying, racism, and alcoholism. Arnold, the protagonist, is determined to escape the cycle of poverty and alcoholism that plagues the reservation, so he makes the difficult decision to attend an all-white high school in a nearby town, just as the author did in real life.
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One day in school, Arnold opens a textbook and sees his mother’s name inscribed. He realizes the book is thirty years old. The enormity of learning about the poverty he’s living with makes him feel frustrated. Arnold asks his parents what the key to success is, and they say, “Being white.” This part of the book is impressive because it doesn’t turn into a story about being unable to succeed in America if you’re not white. The turn it takes is getting the best education possible and how exposure to life outside of your community can change your life.
Arnold decides right then and there that he wants to go to the best school he can, the white school twenty-two miles away. His parents agree to it. This decision causes Arnold to face discrimination and alienation from his community and his new schoolmates, but he succeeds despite many obstacles.
As Arnold navigates through this new environment, he grapples with identity, cultural assimilation, and the conflicting expectations of his tribe and the wider society. He also confronts the tragic realities of reservation life, including poverty, alcoholism, and suicide. Despite his challenges, Arnold remains determined to pursue his dreams and find his place in the world.
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This book has been banned because some readers and educators have objected to its use of profanity and vulgar language, arguing that it is inappropriate for young adult readers. The book has been challenged and banned in some school districts due to its depiction of sexuality and drug and alcohol use, which some critics have argued is inappropriate for young readers. Some Native American critics have raised concerns about the book’s portrayal of Native American stereotypes, arguing that it reinforces harmful stereotypes about Native Americans, a strange argument given that it is written by a Native American Man who grew up much like the protagonist in his book.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a coming-of-age story that is both funny and poignant. It offers a powerful exploration of the complexities of Native American identity. Teens and adults will learn a lot from it. It would be great for a book club. The message from this book is that your struggle can become your purpose. Please read it and see for yourself.
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