“Reservations were meant to be prisons, you know? Indians were supposed to move onto reservations and die. We were supposed to disappear.“- Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
I rarely enjoy YA books but I really liked this one. Narrated by Junior (Arnold) Spirit it tells the story of the life of a young Indian boy on and off a reservation
Junior, an unlucky boy living on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington,was born with too much cerebral spinal fluid in his skull and this brought about lots of physical problems. Poor Junior is already unpopular on the reservation but becomes even more so when he opts to transfer to a “white” school off the reservation.
I read the book in one sitting;I felt so much sympathy for Junior who has so many trials to deal with at such a young age. Even as a 14 year old, he manages to show us the problems that Native Americans face, for example the poverty, the alcohol, abuse. However, he also manages to show the positive aspects of the culture.
“But we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams. We don’t get those chances. Or choices. We’re just poor. That’s all we are.”
“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 you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
I saw a lot of parallels with how American Indians were treated and what colonialism did to Africa. As Junior’s teacher said: “We were supposed to make you give up being Indian. Your songs and stories and language and dancing.Everything. We weren’t trying to kill Indian people. We were trying to kill Indian culture.” Very tragic.
It was a sad book but it was also quirky and funny. Highly recommended.