Banned Book Club is a meme I host where we read one historically challenged book a month. We support free speech and fight censorship every chance we get. Join our Goodreads group and DM me on Twitter to join our group chat.
Book of the month (May 2018): The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Banned for: Violence, language, sexual content
Despite being written by a problematic author (a known sexual offender), I thought the book was good. But I’m also confused by my reaction to it. Read on to find out more.
Bestselling author 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 by Ellen Forney 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 was destined to live.
The Absolutely True Diary… is a powerful book about Arnold/Junior, a 14-year-old Spokane Indian who moves away from his reservation to go to school. He has brain damage, he’s the only Native American in his all-white school, his parents are alcoholic, he’s considered a “retard” in his own reservation–this book is the perfect example to explain intersecting identities to the naive.
And that’s why I liked this book.
Arnold tells his story using both words and sketches and they’re funny, witty, and include a whole lot of teenage angst. This book made me laugh out loud, tear up, and overall, feel inspired by a fictional teenager.
But, not everything about this book is as glowing.
Several women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment from Alexie. I would never want to support an artist who’s a known harasser, but what do you do, if despite all odds, you end up liking the book?
As the host of the Banned Book Club, I’ve made a small number of people read this book. I’ve written a glowing review about it. And I feel super guilty about it.
In all, this book is powerful, moving, and good to read, if you can put Alexie’s actions in a different box. Or you could, like yours truly, read it and feel guilty about liking it.
Rating: 4 out of 5