Everybody Reads 2013: Book Reviews

Are you participating in this year’s Everybody Reads?

This year, Multnomah County Library selected two books by Sherman Alexie– Ten Little Indians” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” The first is a collection of short stories for adults while the second is his National Book Award winning novel for young adults- and personally one of my favorite books ever.

Image courtesy of Sherman Alexie's website

Image courtesy of Sherman Alexie’s website

Official Summary: Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Alexie’s YA debut, released in hardcover to instant success, receiving seven starred reviews, hitting numerous bestseller lists, and winning the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

My Review: Sherman Alexie’s a writer who’s been recommended to me for the longest time. When I read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” a few years ago, I liked how relatable the main character was. While this followed a similar arc to many coming of age stories out there, of the protagonist persevering through whatever challenges came their way and ended up being better for them, this was somehow different and refreshing.

With its strong but honest language and a lot of the subjects covered, I can see why certain groups may be offended with the book and may want it banned. But I think that’s what a great story does. It makes us uncomfortable in its ability to mirror our lives and ourselves in its pages.

Official Summary: Sherman Alexie is one of our most acclaimed and popular writers today. With Ten Little Indians, he offers nine poignant and emotionally resonant new stories about Native Americans who, like all Americans, find themselves at personal and cultural crossroads, faced with heartrending, tragic, sometimes wondrous moments of being that test their loyalties, their capacities, and their notions of who they are and who they love.

In Alexie’s first story, “The Search Engine,” Corliss is a rugged and resourceful student who finds in books the magic she was denied while growing up poor. In “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above,” an intellectual feminist Spokane Indian woman saves the lives of dozens of white women all around her to the bewilderment of her only child. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” starts off with a homeless man recognizing in a pawn shop window the fancy-dance regalia that was stolen fifty years earlier from his late grandmother.

Even as they often make us laugh, Alexie’s stories are driven by a haunting lyricism and naked candor that cut to the heart of the human experience, shedding brilliant light on what happens when we grow into and out of each other.

My Review: I was instantly hooked when I picked up “Ten Little Indians.” I just wanted to stay home and read through the whole thing but I found out that I also wanted to take the time to enjoy each of the stories before going on to the next one.

I was impressed by how each story sounded different yet there were some things that were mentioned or touched upon repeatedly.

I submitted the following haiku (as part of their contest) and I wanted to share it because it describes how I felt about the book:

Alexie’s stories-
Each one better than the last-
Make me go “Pow! Wow!”

I highly recommend reading any or both of these books. And check out the Everybody Reads page to get more out of this community-wide reading project!

I know I’ll be reading more of Sherman Alexie in the future!

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