I read two books this week. First Shiver, then The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian.
I had two good cries this week. I'm over that now.
This book will change you. No matter who you are before you read Alexie's brilliant book, you will be different afterward. I have been meaning to read this book for a couple years and I just never committed myself to the idea. An Indian boy cripple who isn't really accepted by anyone and he likes to draw. I can be a dick sometimes, and when I finished The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, I felt ashamed. What is wrong with me that I have been choosing my books based on stereotypes? It is true that I have an disinterest in Native American culture. I appreciate the historical qualities and the social customs that we learned about in grade school, but I gotta be honest, I really dislike beaded dresses, feathered headdresses, and eagles. But why is it that the dislike of those inanimate objects has digressed into my prejudice against the Native American population as a whole?
What the hell is wrong with me?
So, I read The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian and I am not going to say that I am a reformed man or that this book has made me into and Indian-lover because that would make Junior, the book's protagonist roll his eyes. Well, that, and it's just not true. This book changed me because it reminded me that we are all human. I don't sit around plotting wars with the nearby reservation, but I have never allowed myself to think that maybe Native Americans deserve to be given something other than excuses (excuses being our name for their current situation). I am not going to pretend that I know much about the issues of today's Indians, obviously alcohol abuse and smoking are prevalent, there are all sorts of financial hurdles each Indian must overcome, but how are these things different than the rest of us? I think that is part of Junior's point in The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian. He makes several comparisons between his rez and the nearby white town where he (the only Indian) attends high school. This is seen as a betrayal by most of the Indians living on his rez, casting him further outside of their 'culture'. Junior manages to overcome a crappy hand of cards that was dealt to him well before he was born and make a difference in his life. He does this while battling all stages of grief, but he just tells you what's what and you either laugh or cry. The trials and tribulations Junior faces in this book are enough to push someone beyond their breaking point, but Junio's life is not all bad. He finds his calling and experiments with just plain old life a bit. He lives a little and finds happiness in that fact. He may be the only happy Indian on his rez, but he isn't afraid to show it, well, maybe a little scared.
The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is full of anecdotes that will make you laugh hysterically and cry occasionally, sometimes simultaneously. You will learn lessons you never thought you would. You will learn lessons you never thought existed. You will gain two new friends, one in Junior, who you will literally fall in love with and the other with yourself, where reflections will possibly annoy you, but more likely change you.