After some weeks I´m done reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. The book was about an Indian boy called Arnold, and based on the author’s experience. Arnold lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and he decides to leave the school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school. He meets a lot of difficulty on his journey and he faces friendship, family drama, love, and sorrow. Though the book Arnold express his feeling and thought with drawings, for Arnold, writing and drawing become a means of reaching out and connecting to others. He refers to his drawings as little “lifeboats”
“I was born with water on the brain.
Okay, so that’s not exactly true. I was actually born with too much cerebral spinal fluid inside my skull. But cerebral spinal fluid is just the doctors’ fancy way of saying brain grease. And brain grease works inside the lobes like car grease works inside an engine. It keeps things running smooth and fast. But weird me, I was born with too much grease inside my skull, and it got all thick and muddy and disgusting, and it only mucked up the works. My thinking and breathing and living engine slowed down and flooded.”
“Rowdy might be the most important person in my life. Maybe more important than my family.”
The theme in the book is growing up and friendship. The book is based on Arnold’s childhood and how he has to face the bad and the good times. At the start of the book, we get a little overview of Arnold’s life before we he starts with his story at the time, he was born with hydrocephalus and therefore is small for his age and suffers from seizures, poor eyesight, stuttering, and a lisp. Then he starts telling us about his life on the rez, mostly negative. Through the book, we get to see Arnold growing. The centerpiece of the novel is the friendship between Junior and Rowdy, which frames the novel. Rowdy, Arnolds best friend, has always been there for him, but when Arnold decides to transfer school, their friendship doesn’t make it.
“For Wellpinit and Reardan, my hometowns”
The story takes place in the Spokane Indian Reservation, in Wellpinit, Washington (USA). Where Arnold live and where he used to go to school. Until he transformed to an all-white school in the town of Reardan nearly 22 miles away.
“My school and my tribe are so poor and sad that we have to study from the same dang books our parents studied from. That is absolutely saddest thing in the world.
And let me tell you, that old, old, old decrepit geometry book hit my heart with the force of a nuclear bomb. My hopes and dreams floated up in a mushroom cloud. What do you do when the world has declared nuclear war on you?!”
“After my grandmother died, I felt like grawling into the coffin with her. After my dad´s best friend got shot in the face, too.
Considering how many young Spokanes have died in car wrecks, I´m pretty sure it´s my destiny to die in a wreck, too.
Jeez, I´ve fourteen years old and I´ve been to forty-two funerals.”
Arnold faces a lot of difficulties, one of them is the exchange of school. When Arnold decides he has to transform school, his life changed. First of all, he loses his best friend and everybody on the reservation hates him and call him a treater. When Arnold´s grandmother dies from a car accident. People treated him differently. They stopped beating him up and actually ignored him more than they spoke to him. Arnold thought it was a little ironic that his grandmother death made people stop harassing him. Later in the book, a terrible thing happens to Arnold´s sister, Mary. He dies in a fire, where she was too drunk, so she burned to death. Arnold feels like he the reason for his sister death. If he hadn´t left the rez, neither would his sister. She wouldn´t have run off to Montana and got married, she would still sit in the basement and waste her life.
“I draw all the time.
I draw cartoons of my mother and father; my sister and grandmother; my best friend, Rowdy; and everybody else on the rez.
I draw because words are two unpredictable.
I draw because words are too limited.
If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning.
But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it.
If I draw a cartoon of a flower, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, “That’s a flower.”
Trough the book there´s a lot of crises in friendship. Rowdy is Arnold’s best friend, arch nemesis, and everything in between. Rowdy has always stood up for Arnold, but when he decided to transform school Rowdy feels betread and push him away. Arnold tries much time to fix their friendship, but get rejected every time. In the new school, Arnold meets new people and also get some new friends like Gordy, Roger, and Penelope, although Arnold looks at Penelope a little more than a friend. We also have Arnold´s family drama. Mary, Arnold’s older sister, who lives in the basement of her parent’s house. Inspired by Arnold, Mary decides to leave her home in Wellpinit and run away to Montana to marry a Flathead Indian. Later she dies in an accidental trailer fire, an event that completely devastates Arnold. Then it is Mr. and Mrs. Spirit, who loves Arnold, but they have a lot of difficulties. His father is an alcoholic and his mother is an ew alcoholic. And Arnold’s grandmother, grandmother Spirit is powwow famous, and her greatest gift is tolerance. When she is struck by a drunk driver, her dying words ask that Gerald, the man who hit her, be forgiven.
My impression of the book was a little different from what I thought. When I first heard about the book I thought it was going to be a very serious book about the hard life an Indian has. But it wasn´t like that at all, yes it was a book about an Indian with a hard life, but it wasn´t written in a serious way. It was a lot of sarcasm and some dirty jokes and that´s humor for some teenagers. The story was also very touching, and we understand the author story because the book is written as a diary.
Question for lesson 2 – oral discussion
How was your life, Sherman, in the reservation?
Why did you leave the reservation at 14? Why was it so crucial?
How were the tribal schools as compared to white schools?
Explain your views on Indians and alcoholism?
The basketball match was you won over your old classmates, how was this feeling?
Tell me a little about Rowdy, and your classmate from the all-white farm town high school?
Is there a possibility that something similar could happen in the world nowadays?