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September 14, 2009

The Absolutely True Blog Entry of a Sherman Alexie Fan

Kate Hart
Yesterday I sat down and inhaled The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I said a few weeks ago that I thought I would like it, and wow-- did I ever. Usually I despise first person narration that talks to the reader ("So, you know? I mean, don't judge me, blah blah blah") but our introduction to Arnold is so unusual and interesting that I settled right in without a second thought.

I've always loved Sherman Alexie for his willingness to tell it like it is. After plowing through pound after pound of academic treatises on Native Americans for history papers, it was always a relief to pick up Alexie and read things like, "The term Native American is nothing but a white construct to assuage their guilt" and "You are not a Cherokee princess. You are not descended from a Cherokee princess. There's no such thing as a Cherokee princess!" (Roughly paraphrased, obviously.)

I've read a lot of advice and criticism re.YA novels suggesting that writers don't need to be careful of controversial topics or language anymore. Granted, I haven't read a ton of YA, but as I make my way through the current popular books, I'm seeing the former is true, and the latter-- not so much. Not even that profanity is avoided so much, but more like there is tiptoeing around the way teenagers really speak. Not Alexie. Phrases like "You should approach each book-- you should approach life-- with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point" and "How is it that a bulimic girl with vomit on her breath can suddenly be so sexy?" had me nodding my head and thinking, "Yeah, this is how it should be." Teens might not actually speak that way, but those worth reading about think that way.

The illustrations by Ellen Forney are also genius. I couldn't find my favorites online but here is a sample.

Researching the whole writing/agenting/publishing process makes me feel overwhelmed on a daily basis. I over research. It's what I do. Whether it's for school or for work or to assuage my fangirl tendencies, I read everything I can and get frustrated that I can't master anything.

That's probably why I dogeared this page:
"Look at all these books," he said.
"There aren't that many," I said. It was a small library in a small high school in a small town.
"There are three thousand four hundred and twelve books here," Gordy said. "I know that because I counted them."
"Okay, now you're officially a freak," I said.
"Yes, it's a small library. It's a tiny one. But if you read one of these books a day, it would still take you almost ten years to finish."
"What's your point?"
"The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know."
Wow. That was a huge idea.
Any town, even one as small as Reardan, was a place of mystery. And that meant that Wllpinit, that smaller, Indian town, was also a place of mystery.
"Okay, so it's like each of these books is a mystery. Every book is a mystery. And if you read all the books ever written, it's like you've read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you just keep on learning there is so much more you need to learn."
"Yes, yes, yes, yes," Gordy said. "Now doesn't that give you a boner?"


  1. I'd heard of this book but never read it...until I saw this post. Got the book, devoured, loved :) It was a little sad and very funny and just... endearing.

    You know, I haven't been reading much YA (now I'm starting back up) but I do feel that the language thing is a bit avoided. Well maybe "language" isn't the right word. There's a good amount of cursing in certain books, but my problem is with sex--I don't think it's addressed too realistically. I mean in the way where girls are just as lustful and where boys are way more sexually hyped than most books depict them as. Not "she's hot/I want sex," but talking about boners and stuff. Again, not like "he got a boner," but more... personal?
    Okay I don't think I explained myself very well but.. yeah.

    Anyway, thanks again for the post :)


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