This is another one of those "I don't write about books, but I gotta write about this book" post. And. I'm late to the party.
I've been meaning to read this book for awhile now. It's been out for years. I just never got around to it. Kept putting it off. But this school year, it kept creeping into my life.
I'm talking about Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Kelly Gallagher used The Unofficial and Unwritten (but you better follow them or you're going to get beaten twice as hard) Spokane Indian Rules of Fisticuffs as a mentor text in his book Write Like This. So I tried it with my students. They loved it and wrote great unwritten rules of their own
Then, Ruth sent me this quote:
Back on the rez, I was a decent player, I guess. A rebounder and a guy who could run up and down the floor without tripping. But something magical happened to me when I went to Reardan.Overnight, I became a good player. I suppose it had something to do with confidence. I mean, I’d always been the lowest Indian on the reservation totem pole --- I wasn’t expected to be good so I wasn’t. But in Reardan, my coach and the other players wanted me to be good. They needed me to be good. They expected me to be good. And so I became good.I wanted to live up to expectations.I guess that’s what it comes down to.The power of expectations.And as they expected more of me, I expected more of myself, and it just grew and grew…
I loved those last two lines--the power of expectations--it's one of those things I believe about kids--they will rise to your expectations.
The voice of Junior is so true. So alive. His courage in choosing to leave the reservation to go to school is inspiring. He surrounds himself with people who make him better. People like Gordy...
And he certainly helped me through school. He not only tutored me and challenged me, but he made me realize that hard work--that act of finishing, of completing, of accomplishing a task--is joyous.
Junior's comics are a peek inside his soul. Through those comics, you can understand his struggle with the racism in his life, and the conflict between his two worlds. Junior grew in so many ways throughout this book, but most of all, I think, in the way he began to trust those around him. He realized that although his parents weren't perfect, they were pretty good. He understood his best friend/enemy Rowdy and found it inside himself to forgive him. He stood up for himself and, in the process, made a friend. And, in the midst of a trying time in his life, he made an important discovery, "If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing." And with that came the realization that he wasn't just a part of the Spokane Indian Tribe, but a part of a much bigger world.
I love this book so much, I'm considering it for a class novel (and you know how I hate class novels)--or at least a read aloud (although there are a few parts I wouldn't want to read aloud!). I do have several boys who chose it for their banned book project. I can't wait to see what they think about it.