Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Absolutely True Slice of Life Post

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.


  1. I LOVE this book! When I read your post title I was hope-hope-hoping it was a reference :) It is hilariously funny without losing depth. If you do decide to use it with your class, I would love to hear how it goes. I am with you on becoming more and more anti-whole-class-novel, but some stories just beg to be shared with a community of readers/writers.

  2. I love this book, too. It's not every sixth grader I can pass it along to, but every year I get one kid( usually a boy) who reads it, loves it, and gets so much out of our discussion about it. And that quote: "And as they expected more of me, I expected more of myself, and it just grew and grew…" is up on the wall of my classroom, too. A perfect message for my kids, and for me.

  3. I've taught the book several times before I left the classroom & push it onward every chance I get, Deb. Your post is a lovely tribute to it and those students you want to reach. I think it would be a great class novel-so many discussions come out of it.

  4. So many themes to focus on, in the novel and in your post.
    The idea of living up to expectations has been spiraling through my days this week, for lots of reasons, so I appreciate this reminder of Junior words.
    Have fun with the book - no matter who you read it with.

  5. Definitely a read aloud! Great idea! I did that with freshmen. I read on MWF. They loved it!

  6. That book has been on my to-read list for a long time, and your post has made me want to give it priority next! :-)

  7. Your post reminds me of how much I loved this book. Ruth's quote about the power of expectations reminded me of this quote from One for the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt, a new favorite book.
    ". . . But when Mrs. Murphy tells me I'm smart, I am. When she tells me I'm funny, I am. When she tells me how thoughtful I am, I become that way. I swear, if she told me I was a duck, I'd be checking in my high tops for webbed feet."

    1. Love this quote. One for the Murphys is on my TBR list. I may have to move it up just for the quote.

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