Saturday, January 25, 2014

Reader Response: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Pt. 2

Continued reader response to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

** Spoilers everywhere! **

Chapter "My Sister Sends Me an E-mail"

Mary Runs Away finally speaks (or types)! I'm kind of disappointed here, but only because Sherman Alexie built up some mystery about her, and this didn't resolve any of that mystery. He gets points for making me want more.

Chapter "Thanksgiving"

Have to share part of scene. Junior is missing having Rowdy over for Thanksgiving, so he draws a cartoon of himself and Rowdy in super hero outfits giving each other a fist-bump "like we used to be," and took it over to Rowdy's home where his dad lies and claims Rowdy isn't home, then:
"'Oh, well, I drew this for him. Can you give it to him?'
Rowdy's dad took the cartoon and stared at it for a while. Then he smirked.
'You're kind of gay, aren't you?' he asked.
Yeah, that was the guy who was raising Rowdy. Jesus, no wonder my best friend was always so angry.
'Can you just give it to him?' I asked.
'Yeah, I'll give it to him. Even if it's a little gay.'
I wanted to cuss at him. I wanted to tell him that I thought I was being courageous, and that I was trying to fix my broken friendship with Rowdy, and that I missed him, and if that was gay, then okay, I was the gayest dude in the world. But I didn't say any of that.
'Okay, thank you,' I said instead. 'And Happy Thanksgiving.'"
See what I mean about Sherman Alexie being clued into the ways gender restrictions also cause problems for men? The macho thing is making it not okay for Junior to say that he misses his best friend. I appreciate that it's a physically abusive adult being a jerk because it should help teen readers dis-identify with that kind of thinking (and the "gay!" slur). At the same time, Junior models being polite to someone who doesn't deserve it, when preaching wouldn't help anyway.

Chapter "Hunger Pains"

Junior gets ahead by seeing a weakness in another person and...showing kindness when it wasn't expected.

Indian kids aren't the only ones with dreams and limitations.

Chapter "Rowdy Gives Me Advice About Love"

Good advice, actually.

And in this chapter we have a media literacy lesson.

Chapter "Dance, Dance, Dance"

Some insight into the psychology of being poor and the importance of not appearing to be.

Chapter "Don't Trust Your Computer"

It's nice to see how the same technology people blame for being alienating can also provide opportunities for communication when face to face talking is...more problematic. And it's nice to read a book depicting this.

Chapter "My Sister Sends Me a Letter"

Mary Runs Away is entirely too positive all of the time. I'm worried.

Chapter "Reindeer Games"

I feel like I just read an inspiring sports novel in a single chapter. Much respect for this coach character, for seeing Junior's strengths and working with his weaknesses. And being the best all-around human being in this book so far. He doesn't go over the top like the reservation's math teacher did, but he certainly exceeded my expectations.

Chapter "And a Partridge in a Pear Tree"

I'm grateful that I didn't grow up with an alcoholic parent.

Chapter "Red Versus White"

And more grateful that I didn't grow up with non-alcoholic parents who ignore their children.

Thanks a lot, Sherman Alexie!! I know I hadn't cried in, like, pages, but damn that was the most sublime set-up for a sucker punch I've ever experienced as a reader! ...I'm starting to think that if I could go back and cut out a couple of pages in the chapter about the math teacher, this would be a flawlessly amazing book, instead of just an amazing book.

Chapter "Wake"

The most astonishing thing is that this chapter was a break from emotional storms, considering what it was about. I appreciated the portrayal of community here.

Chapter "Valentine Heart"

Couldn't decide if I wanted to throw this book or keep reading. It's cruel to write emotional roller-coasters like this and expect people to read it. Of course I'm going to invite everyone to take this ride when I'm finished.

Chapter "In Like a Lion"

One thing I like best about PTI is that nothing is simple. It's not ambiguous either. It's strong and clear in different directions, like life. Arnold's interview with the sports report is an example. In a more simple book, the obviously-on-the-way gag about Arnold only saying "Weird." in response to the on-camera prompt after giving an honest answer would have been the end of it. But it's a more adult book than that. The reporter calls Arnold a name and Arnold realize that, yes, both of them were being assholes to each other. So he asks to try again. I was surprised the reporter bothered, but then Arnold gave an honest answer that went beyond basketball.

It's definitely a book about getting past that first layer of personality, that first role, the expected response.

Just realized I switched to writing about "Arnold" instead of "Junior." Well, he's growing up and so is my perception of this character.

Chapter "Rowdy and I Have a Long and Serious Discussion About Basketball"

This book.

Chapter "Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses"
"I'm fourteen years old and I've been to forty-two funerals.
That's really the biggest difference between Indians and white people."
Chapter "Remembering"

Another big lesson of this book, as I read it: The problem isn't having identities, it's in identity being too simple. We are all many things.

Chapter "Talking About Turtles"

Completely satisfying ending. I will go off into the world and evangelize for this book now.

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