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14-year-old Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, is an awkward looking kid born who spends his time drawing cartoons as an escape from his impoverished life on a Spokane Indian reservation in Wellpinit, WA.  He also hangs out with his appropriately named friend Rowdy who's always ready to beat up someone or something. Arnold's life really turns into a big question mark when he decides to enroll in a wealthy, white school in Reardon. He's in a tug-of-war with his new identity and his old one individually and as part of a tribe.

This is such a funny and entertaining read but, it's also quite educational as I feel I got a real glimpse into life on a modern Indian reservation. I was well aware of he alcoholism that plagues a number of the Indian community, but Alexie's narrative brought a sensibility to it. The sheer level of poverty is also a tough pill to swallow when one considers the grave impact of settlement in the U.S. on American Indians. But, again, Alexie makes it all bearable with the cartoons that provide much of the insight on Junior's life. Junior's quirky persona while coping with  life and  pursuing a permanent way off the rez through education provides a hopeful and uplifting tale for young people.

 


Comments

04/19/2010 8:00am

I really enjoyed this book! It is funny and poignant and interesting. Now I just need to find time to read his other books. Good thing I have summers off!

04/21/2010 6:35am

I really enjoyed this book - it was an unsentimental yet charming tale that gave a light touch to heavy situations.

04/28/2010 4:22am

Seeing a lot of mentions about this right now. I think Sherman Alexie is a writer I need to connect with. I'd like to learn more about how Native Americans came to end up on reservations, do you have any suggestions?

BrownGirl
04/28/2010 10:04am

@Jodie: No, I don't have any recommendations. I'm really interested in more myself. So, let's keep each other posted on what we find. I hope to take a class on Native American women in coming months as I finish my degree. I should then learn of some good nonfiction resources at least.

07/28/2010 10:54am

This is on my TBR list, can't wait to get into it!

10/12/2010 12:16pm

HAHA! I was about to leave the same comment I left back in July, status hasn't changed.

Leah
11/04/2010 9:41pm

Sherman Alexie does a fantastic job at conveying Indian life on the reservation to the readers of his book. He leaves out no details in his story and allows the book to include profanity to give the reader a better understanding of life on the reservation verses life in Rearden. I found myself stepping into the shoes of the main character, Junior while reading. The pictures were a great addition to the story because they made reading the book more bearable by breaking up the text. Also, the pictures allowed for a deeper understanding of Junior, which helped me to gain a better understanding of the book. I found that the profanity, which many people complain about, was funny. It made a book that addresses serious societal issues hilarious. Overall, I learned a lot about Indian reservation life by reading this book.

11/05/2010 8:29am

Great review--I've linked to it in my review.


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