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adult services mascot the daily classifiedscharacters' lives more bearable. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been at the center of many controversies due to the book's themes and content and its target audience of young adults. The author, Alexie, himself is of the Spokane heritage, and as a result, he uses his own background and personal experiences to write this specific novel in a semi-autobiographical format. Fiction by Sherman Alexie.
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He reveals this information in a way that is both comical and sympathetic; he invites readers to share and relate to his experience being bullied. Junior lives under the constant threat of physical violence. Although he attempts to assuage the threat through his drawings and light-hearted approach to the problem, he is nevertheless subjected to regular beatings by members of the reservation, including the adults.
Violence serves as a form of communication in the reservation; Junior believes it is the Native Americans' acknowledgement that they are going nowhere that fuels their violence. Thus, as is true with Rowdy, physical violence is also communicative. Poverty is a theme that is introduced by the main character at the very beginning on the book.
Junior knows that his family is poor, just as every other family who lives on the reservation. Junior and his family often go without meals for extended periods of time, and therefore savor the meals that they do get. The death of Oscar, the canine best friend of Junior, is shot by his father because their family can't afford to pay the veterinarian bills. The poverty disparity is also evident when Junior transfers schools to Reardan and notices the difference in quality of clothing between him and his rich, white peers.
He even, on occasion, walks to and from school because his family doesn't have the gas or transportation to get him there and home. Ashamed of economic status, Junior does everything in his power to ensure that none of his peers find out that his family is poor, such as making excuses, lying, and borrowing money. The novel uses humorous narratives and comics to convey the theme of race.
It explores racial issues such as stereotyping of Native and White people, the use of indigenous culture as sports mascots, interracial friendships, and cultural tokenization.
For example, Junior notes that the only other "Indian" at Reardan was its school mascot, calling attention to the ubiquitous use of indigenous symbols in sports see " List of sports team names and mascots derived from indigenous peoples ".
Although Junior often dichotomizes Whites and Indians, Alexie reveals the stereotyping that occurs while still blurring the lines between races. Junior eventually establishes friendship with many of the White Reardan students, who see past race and accept him for his caring nature, his intelligence, and his basketball talents. Alcohol abuse is an issue salient to the Spokane reservation.
Junior voices his disapproval for its widespread use and considers it to be directly responsible for much of the disarray in his own family. The portrayal of alcoholism in the novel is representative of the problem Native Americans have with the use of alcohol. Much of Alexie's desire to explore and address the issue of alcoholism derives from his own experiences with alcohol on the reservation.
When asked if he feels the need to address alcoholism as a Native American, he replied "the whole race is filled with alcoholics. For those Indians who try to pretend it's a stereotype, they're in deep, deep denial," and by addressing it that "with the social hope that by writing about it, maybe it'll help people get sober, and it has.
The centerpiece of the novel is the friendship between Junior and Rowdy, which frames the novel. In the first chapter, Junior says, "Rowdy might be the most important person in my life. Maybe more important than my family. But as the novel progresses, Junior begins to make friends at Reardan High and learns just how crucial it is to build new relationships with different people, as they each serve an important role or function in his life. Writing and literature play important roles in the lives of Junior, Rowdy, and Mary.
Rowdy reads comics as a way to escape from his abusive, dysfunctional home: In contrast, Junior draws cartoons and writes because it makes him feel important and is his way of communicating with the world. Alexie furthers the distinction between Junior on Mary on page 46—he writes, "My sister is running away to get lost, but I am running away because I want to find something.
In essence, writing, drawing, and reading are activities that are cathartic to Rowdy, Mary, and Junior. These outlets function as coping mechanisms to make the dysfunction, violence, and abuse in the characters' lives more bearable. Oscar is Junior's stray mutt, best friend, and "the only living thing he can depend on. Oscar is a symbol of the struggles and consequences of being poor. Junior's inability to aid his friend reminds him of the poverty he believes he is destined to inherit.
In the novel, basketball is a symbol of improvement. Before his arrival to Reardan, Junior was, by his own words, "a decent player. By the end of the novel, Junior believes he will be able to beat Rowdy someday. The transformation Junior undergoes through the sport is a testament of his will-power and dedication to better himself. Family takes significance part in this book. Even Junior's family are poor, they always supported him and he mentioned that they are the only people who listen to him.
His sister sends letters and gives him hope. His dad, who is alcoholic, saved five dollars for him. Junior knows that it is easy for his father to spend that five dollars on alcohol but the fact that he saved it for him made him feel special.
This shows that money is not everything to become happy. Bruce Barcott of The New York Times said in a review, "For 15 years now, Sherman Alexie has explored the struggle to survive between the grinding plates of the Indian and white worlds. Working in the voice of a year-old forces Alexie to strip everything down to action and emotion, so that reading becomes more like listening to your smart, funny best friend recount his day while waiting after school for a ride home.
The New York Times opined that this was Alexie's "first foray into the young adult genre, and it took him only one book to master it. Reviewers also commented on Alexie's treatment of difficult issues. Delia Santos, a publisher for the civilrights. In another review published in November by Dakota Student website , author Breanna Roen says that she has never seen the way that this book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian , conveys so much happiness, love, and grief.
In the review, "A Brave Life: The Real Struggles of a Native American Boy make an Uplifting Story" published in The Guardian , author Diane Samuels says that Alexie's book has a "combination of drawings, pithy turns of phrase, candor, tragedy, despair and hope … [that] makes this more than an entertaining read, more than an engaging story about a North American Indian kid who makes it out of a poor, dead-end background without losing his connection with who he is and where he's from.
It's humane, authentic and, most of all, it speaks. Furthermore, Talbert believes that, unlike other Young Adult novels, this book captures issues of race and class in a way that reaches a wider audience.
Crandall points out that Arnold is never held back by his disability, but in fact laughs at himself: His disability fades as a plot device as the book progresses. David Goldstein, in his paper "Sacred Hoop Dreams: Basketball in the Work of Sherman Alexie", analyses the importance of basketball in the novel.
He suggests that it represents "the tensions between traditional lifeways and contemporary social realities. The Scandals of Children's Literature," society has created an "innocence of the idealized child"; Alexie's protagonist is the opposite of this figure. Alexie won three major "year's best" awards for Diary , a biannual award for books by and about Native Americans, and a California award that annually covers the last four years.
The awards are listed below:. Diary was also named to several annual lists including three by the United States' library industry not including being banned. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been at the center of many controversies due to the book's themes and content and its target audience of young adults. The book has both fervent supporters and concerned protesters: The topics addressed in the book that have been controversial include cultural insensitivity, provocative and explicit language, scenes that are sexually explicit or anti-family, anti-Christian content, alcoholism and depictions of bullying and violence, among others.
Local parents caught wind of the book's references to alcoholism, sensitive cultural topics, and sexual innuendos: Instead, the English Department introduced an alternative option for summer reading—students who preferred to read John Hart 's Down River were permitted to do so. In Prineville, Oregon one parent raised objections to the school board about how the book contains references to masturbation and is generally inappropriate.
In response, the Crook County School District temporarily removed the book from classrooms. The removal was upheld, but the book remained available to students in school libraries. A parent complained about the violence, language, and sexual content in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian , and the Stockton School District Board voted to ban the book from school libraries.
The decision was voted upon multiple times, but ultimately the ban was upheld. At first, the district allowed it under the premise that children who were not allowed to read it would bring a signed paper allowing them to read the alternate book Tangerine.
About two weeks after the announcement was made to the 8th graders, the school board banned teaching it in a curriculum, but still allowed it in the library for those who wished to read it. In , one parent in the Helena School District objected to the book's "obscene, vulgar, and pornographic language. In , a 9th grade Language Arts teacher at the Richland Public High School piloted Diary in his curriculum, and with the help of his students, reported to the school's board on the inclusion of the book in a high school curriculum.
In June , the school board voted to remove the book from the school entirely. Board members had not read the book but cited the split Instructional Materials Committee vote as the reason to ban the novel. The board members later learned that some members of the Instructional Materials Committee had not read the book, and so the board members agreed to vote again, but read it for themselves before the vote. In , the book was removed from the Dade County school libraries and required high school reading lists due to complaints about "vulgarity, racism, and anti-Christian content".
In in the Old Rochester Regional Junior High School, the book was challenged as an 8th grade English assignment, but ultimately retained by the school. In , the book was challenged in 9th grade English classes in Westfield High School for "very sensitive material in the book including excerpts on masturbation amongst other explicit sexual references, encouraging pornography, racism, religious irreverence, and strong language.
Sherman Alexie's Diary was challenged in his home state of Washington, only a few hours drive away from where the semi-autobiographical work is set. This means that various people have objected to certain content, theme, or language in this book. The dispute over the book's appropriateness for high school students took place in the West Valley School District in Specifically, many parents claimed that the book contains inappropriate and sexual content and language that are unsuitable for high school students.
As of now, there have been four official complaints about the book that have been recorded. A middle school in Queens removed Diary from required reading due to the references to masturbation, which the school considered inappropriate for middle schoolers.
The book was challenged on the 10th grade reading list at Skyview High School, where a parent complained "[t]his book is, shockingly, written by a Native American who reinforces all the negative stereotypes of his people and does it from the crude, obscene, and unfiltered viewpoint of a 9th-grader growing up on the reservation.
A Jefferson County parent complained about the novel's graphic nature, resulting in the book being pulled from all county schools. Some parents of students of a Sweet Home Junior High English class voiced concerns about the book's content, specifically the objectification of women and young girls.
The concerns resulted in the book being officially challenged, but nothing more. In April , Diary was pulled from the Meridian district's supplemental reading list after significant parental disapproval of the novel's subject matter. Students protested to remove the ban but were unsuccessful. According to Marshall University Libraries, in the text was banned from the Meridian ID school districts' required texts due to parents complaining that it "discusses masturbation, contains profanity, and has been viewed as anti-Christian.
Two weeks later, the school's Media Advisory Committee met and unanimously agreed to keep the book in its curriculum because the committee saw the value in "the realistic depiction of bullying and racism, as well as a need for tolerance and awareness of cultural differences.
There's nothing uplifting in it. Wood lost this protest against the book when the principal of West Brunswick High School responded a few days later that the county school board's policy was that their decision on a book held for all schools in the county, and that those decisions could not be revisited for two years.
In , the superintendent of the Highland Park Independent School District suspended Diary from the school approved book list.
The suspension was very brief, and the superintendent reinstated the book soon after. Although, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has been met with a lot of criticism, it has also been wildly praised by teachers, students, and Alexie himself. Alexie refutes these arguments by emphasizing the positive learning opportunities readers gain from exposure to these harsh aspects of contemporary life.
He describes his own experience of adults trying to hide and protect him from suffering:. They wanted to rescue me.
But, even then, I could only laugh at their platitudes. In those days, the cultural conservatives thought that KISS and Black Sabbath were going to impede my moral development. They wanted to protect me from sex when I had already been raped. They wanted to protect me from evil though a future serial killer had already abused me. Alexie explains not only did students love the book, but they were also able to connect his story to their own difficult experiences "depression, attempted suicide, gang warfare, sexual and physical abuse, absentee parents, poverty, racism, and learning disabilities"—and he notes:.
By shielding inappropriate topics and hardships, many children who suffer with these issues feel even more marginalized and isolated. The book has been credited as being a book that discusses the experiences and issues faced by Native American students in the public school system.
Other defenders of the novel discuss the benefits of showing the consequences of consuming alcohol, which overall gives an anti-alcohol message. Some have even discussed the merits of the book while also mentioning the risks of exposing children to the harsher scenes. Young Adult Fiction author Raquel Rivera wrote in an essay on censorship:.
But there is a scene in Part-Time Indian in which a racist joke is told, and the protagonist is compelled to fight. For me, the joke was nothing more than a tool to propel the plot. In the story it is duly vanquished and forgotten. But the joke stayed with my son, and he continued to be bothered by it.
The autobiographical nature of the novel reflects the internal struggle for identity that Alexie dealt with as a child. His personal experiences then tie into the idea of the trauma that Native American tribes live with as they still struggle to balance assimilation with identity. This phenomenon has been explored and analyzed since the publication of the novel.
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