Finding Humor In Unexpected Places: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
Less Used But Gloriously Wonderful Cover Art
Not the Only One Laughing
Finding Laughter in an Unexpected Place: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
I’m just going to flat out say this: I’m a bit in love with Sherman Alexie. This lately has meant devouring any videos of him on youtube, writing a thousand thoughts on some of his amazing insights, and pestering my husband into watching some of the youtube videos of Sherman Alexie (but honey, don’t you want to be culturally diverse? Hon, you must not love me because you don’t make any time for my literary obsessions!). Having recently read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I can’t wait to hit Half Price to read his other stuff. This book deserves some love and attention theoretically because it’s the kind of book a lit snob can say, “Yes, I am now culturally diverse,” and realistically because there are so many things in there that are roll on the floor laughing, I can’t believe you just said that. Yeah, it’s that kind of amazing brain child that I’m trying to determine where it fits on my list of all time literary greats.
But enough with the tedium. Sherman Alexie’s book is about an Indian who leaves his home on the rez to attend a white school “where the only other Indian is the school mascot.” Told with unflinching honesty and humor, Junior relays his freshman year high school experience in which he falls in love with a white girl (hilarious), becomes the star of his basketball team (great underdog kind of story while questioning the true underdog), loses a lot of family members and friends to alcoholism (a frustrating problem that Sherman Alexie addresses in other talks and works), and struggles with what it means to be an Indian who has left his culture behind. Based on the author’s own experiences, it is the fascinating, mesmerizing kind of read that should be a must in the classroom (although objections have been raised by those on grounds of morality).
Now, having read this fabulous work, I must also recommend the film Smoke Signals and the work that’s based on: the Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. While maintaining a sense of humor, both works again delve into the devastation that alcoholism has caused for the characters that are again based on Sherman Alexie’s experiences. In fact, when accused of promoting stereotypes in regard to his treatment of alcoholism in this work, Alexie states "when I write about the destructive effects of alcohol on Indians, I am not writing out of a literary stance or a colonized mind's need to reinforce stereotypes. I am writing autobiography."(Alexie 2005). Yet despite the sad trend and harshness of life depicted in the works, it is Alexie’s characters who are truly the ones that shine. A story about two young men and the struggle of what it means to forgive your father, the characters seem to be quite opposite one another at times. Thomas-Builds-the-Fire is the optimistic, nerdy kid with glasses who is perpetually telling stories and being somewhat crazy. Then, there’s Victor, the more cynical, athletic one who is questioning what it means to be an Indian along with his own quest to determine his complex relationship with his father.
Having read more than a few reviews of all works pertaining to Sherman Alexie, I think it’s fair to state that I’m not the only one who has had the strange experience of realizing that Native Americans are no longer just that group of people read about in history books and defined by colonist interaction with them as depicted in Dances With Wolves (a movie I still enjoyed). Below are some links showcasing why Alexie is incredibly funny and deserving of all the recognition he has received. Also, the videos again are just hysterical and priceless for the witticisms. My dubious favorite is the one where Sherman Alexie manages to completely stump Colbert. Yeah, he's that good. Happy trails!
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Sherman Alexie Discusses Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
What Should be Required Watching
Alexie Stumps Colbert
ColbertNation.com video - Sherman Alexie believes John McCain has been great for Native Americans, but he's bad for the country.
Sherman Alexie's Web site
- ShermanAlexie.com: The Official Site of Sherman Alexie
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