This would have been two years before Absolutely True Diary... was published. So when people started talking about it, I thought, "Oh, yeah, Smoke Signals guy. Whatever."
But then people whose tastes I trusted read it and raved about it. And then, well, Standing Rock.* So when I saw Absolutely True Diary... in the teen section of my local library, I knew that I had to see if it was any good.
|Image courtesy Kirk Benshoff and Little, Brown and Company|
Whatever was distant, disconnected, and impersonal for me in "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" and Smoke Signals was immediate and personal for me in Absolutely True Diary... Maybe it has something to do with the universality of high school experience? Even if I've never been the only Native student in a white, wealthy high school, I've often felt like the only something in high school. Maybe it was Junior's distinctive voice. Maybe it was just my mood. Whatever.
The illustrations are a nice touch. It has something of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid feel, though not nearly so heavy on the "attempting to look like an actual diary" aspect.
This one was also a quick read. I read half of it on my subway commute and the other half on campus. It won't take you long to blow through it but it's a really powerful and important book nonetheless. Now that I've read this, I'm wondering if I should go back and give Alexie's writing for adults another try. It's been a long time since 2005, after all.
*I'm well aware that Alexie is a member of the Spokane nation in Washington state, not the Dakota people who live in Standing Rock. But white people have been equally shitty to both groups, let's be real.