Tag: Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

April 16th, 2019 — 9:54pm

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Any title that exclaims “absolutely true” raises the possibility that it may not be a 100% true and that the author may have taken some poetic license. However, this 2007 novel is clearly purported to be based on the childhood and young adult experiences of the author, Sherman Alexie who is an indigenous American who grew up on the reservation (or “rez” as the main character might say) of the Spokane Indian tribe. The story depicts his early family, school life, interaction with his teachers and friends, especially one key character, his best friend, Rowdy.

Poverty, alcoholism and despair on the “rez” are clearly shown. Then there is the pivotal event in our hero’s life which is his decision to transfer to a school in a white community 22 miles away from where he lives and his need at times to hitch a ride back and forth to school if his often-drunk dad cannot drive him.

We are shown how the main character interacts with the teachers, and other students at his new school, some of whom beat and bully him. We are also shown his accomplishments in varsity sports at high school in a very well-told fast-moving book.

The book is meant for young adults although apparently there has been some resistance in some places because of the realistic depiction of alcoholism, bullying, violence, profanity, sexuality, racism and other realistic situations. This did not prevent the book and the author from receiving numerous prestigious awards for this book, including the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. It not only depicted issues specifically to this character and his life, but examined the universal themes of lasting friendship, aspirations, and even how the awareness of death and experiencing loss of a loved one impacts us all.

This  is a relatively short book and there is an added-on section, which contains the author’s perspective from his adult point of view many years after he wrote the original manuscript. There is also an unusual component of the book which is involved with cartoons. The main character in the book was shown to express his feelings and view of contemporary life by drawing various cartoons. In preparation for this book, the author asked graphic and cartoon artist, Ellen Forney to create cartoons throughout the book. We are not sure why he did not use his childhood drawings. Perhaps, this was a fictional component of the story. It was also difficult to clearly view the cartoons on the iPad on which I read the book. However, this did not detract from a thoroughly enjoyable literary experience which I would recommend to all readers.

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Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, T - Recommended for Teenagers

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

July 20th, 2011 — 3:01am

Buy now on Amazon: Cutting for Stone

Cutting For StoneThis book  is a fictional story narrated in the first person by  someone who  spends most of his life in a setting that most of us would not expect to identify with or relate to. That is growing up on the grounds of a hospital in Eithopia with one’s identical twin and loving adoptive Indian parents who are physicians along with the dedicated servant staff including the daughter of one them who is your age. You only know that your biological mother was a nun who died in childbirth and your biological father was a brilliant surgeon at the hospital who fled the country  after an abortive effort of crushing the skull of your identical twin in order to try to  extract him in a stalled delivery prior to you and your brother ultimately being saved through a Caesarian section performed by your soon to be adoptive father who was internist. Shortly thereafter your adoptive fathers would marry your adoptive mother who was the Ob-Gyn physician at the hospital who happened to be out of the country at the time of the tragic circumstances of the beginning of you and your brother’s life. As unique as all these circumstances seem to be, the subsequent issues in the life of the narrator while unusual are things that do happen in the course of human events and become powerful determinants of one’s life story.  Despite being identical twins, the narrator’s brother seems to be on the “autism spectrum”, talking at a late age and usually saying very little, having minimal capacity for experiencing and expressing interpersonal emotions, although being objective to the point of ultimately developing an interest and a single minded obsession in women’s fistulas which leads him to wide recognition for his knowledge and advocacy in this arena . His directness as a young man leads him to a sexual experience with the daughter of the household servant which sets off a crescendo of events that go on through a lifetime of the characters in this book. As is so often the case of lives and events, each intersection makes a change which will be so important in another significant event  which will change another one. One misunderstanding or missed opportunity has set up a future event, which will forever change one’s life.  Because the author has chosen to follow his characters for significant portions of their life cycle we come to know them in great depth so we empathize with most of them in a very meaningful way. We do pay a price for this depth of knowledge and understanding of the characters as the author has intertwined his narrative with endless detail about external events of climate, vegetation and seemingly unrelated incidental thoughts of the characters.  I had to fight my obsessive style of not skipping sentences or paragraphs in a book as I usually deplore the style, which skims ahead for dialog or events in a wordy book although at times I lost this battle.  The final reward for reading this book is an insight into one family and a glimpse of life in Ethiopia during the regime of Halle Sal isse as well as a little bit of the feel of the revolution which disposed him . The author being a physician also writes in great detail (sometimes more than you need) about the medical issues of the people who come to the hospital and as well those of some of the characters whom you have come to care bout.  He also blends in some ethical dilemmas which not only challenged the characters but will most likely fascinate the reader. In the end the reader has taken a meaningful journey  with the narrator and the people close to him and you cannot help but feel you are the richer for it.

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FH - Fiction Historical

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