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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie Cover Impressions: Yuck. The colors are horrid. The image is bland. The Gist: Chronicles a year in the life of Arnold Spirit as he attempts to reconcile his life as the only Indian in a white school and the only traitor on his reservation. Review: Books like this are particularly difficult to review. These are the books that tend to get glowing 5 star reviews and are frequently listed as one of the Top YA books of ALLLLLLL time. I tend to find myself disappointed in these books. While I enjoyed this book I did have some issues that would stop me from either recommending it to my students or using it in my classroom. It was certainly well written and I can see the raw nature appealing to young readers. The character of Arnold was amusingly self-deprecating and honest. He did not shy away from embarrassing topics and was very frank on some touchy issues. His relationships were flawed, but felt very real. A great deal of the plot centered around basketball - which I will admit, bored me a little simply because I do not like sports. At all. But, I can see how this would appeal to (particularly male) students. I did feel uncomfortable at times with what I couldn't help but think of as Indian bashing (though I am sure some other readers will wholeheartedly disagree with me). It seemed that Arnold painted nearly all the Native Americans on his reservation as drunken and violent. It bothered me that he was so easily accepted and loved by the white students at his new school, while he was still seen as an outcast on the reservation. The deaths in the story came very abruptly and, as we had spent very little time with those characters, did not have the emotional impact that they could have. From a teaching standpoint, I had a problem with the very casual use of some very strong language, particularly, of homophobic slurs in every day speech. I realize that this happens, I realize that it is a realistic portrayal of the way that many teens speak. However, I do not feel that this is something that should be treated as mainstream. If we continue to treat this behavior as "normal" how can we ever expect it to stop? Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 16 and upGender: BothSex: Kissing, Talk of MasturbationViolence: Fist-Fighting, Death by Car Accident, Death by Gunfire, Death by FireInappropriate Language: LOTS!!!Substance Use/Abuse: Alcohol Abuse