Meagan Reads YA: The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

For my workplace book club, a coworker chose The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I had my reservations about reading this book because of the accusations that recently came out about the author in light of the Me Too movement. I also knew that this was a book that’s been lauded and held in high esteem, and even challenged and banned by certain schools due to certain content.

sherman alexie blog postThe story follows Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a member of the Wellpinit community in Washington. It’s a coming-of-age story about growing up Indian in a racist country. It’s about growing up Indian in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. It’s about growing up Indian and poor. There are so many heavy and tragic topics that take place throughout the story, but it’s all told through Junior’s eyes, meaning it’s told with a wry sense of humor to soften the blow.

I really enjoyed the main character’s voice and his sarcasm aimed not only at the white community that mistreated his people, but at his own people too. It creates this complex and layered relationship between wanting to remain loyal, but wanting more than the life allotted by circumstance and the majority in power. It’s something that many marginalized people can relate to.

Here of course is where the conflict for me as a reader occurs. I truly enjoyed this book and think it’s a good piece of work that’s worth reading. But I can’t just forget the accusations about the author from the people he hurt. In fact, I can even see some of that attitude bleed through in the main character Junior. Sure, he’s a straight teenage boy, so he’s bound to talk about masturbation and look at girls with desire. At least, that’s what’s expected, because after all, boys will be boys. The danger in that expectation is that those boys grow up to be “men who’ll be men,” who in turn continue objectifying women and seeing them as things. This leads to men who “misbehave” and end up hurting women.

While the book is an excellent read and covers important topics with a genuinely funny voice, it’s hard not to notice the moments where adult Alexie and fictional Junior crossover into one another. It becomes a question of separating the art from the artist, which is something I’ve always struggled with. To what extent can we do so, and at what point do we stop separating the two? Because it’s obvious that no one is perfect and no art is perfect, but we have to make a stand somewhere.

Alexie’s new reputation is a blow to marginalized communities because he was such a strong voice for his own. Then again, maybe if more publishers championed more marginalized voices, it wouldn’t be such a detrimental hit to those communities in the first place.

Did anybody else read this book after what came to light about the author? Did anyone read it before? What are your thoughts on liking a book but not liking an author? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Wrote this post for my cousin’s blog. Check out the link below!

Here’s another backlist I recently read as part of a book club with my coworkers. I figured since it’s been slated for production as a television show with HBO though, it might be relevant to some media fans. Readers beware: spoilers are ahead! Also, tw: sexual assault, rape, violence. Here’s a quick rundown of the […]

via Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Diving into Diverse Reading

Lately, I’ve made a much more conscious effort at reading diversely. We chose The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu for my cousins’ book club. I read Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat for the 2018 Madlibs reading challenge. And for my book club at work with my coworkers, we’re reading Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read in the past, but it is so easy to fall into patterns, especially when those works get widely passed around by the mainstream. It’s easy to miss out on some truly excellent work from writers of different backgrounds simply because they are not given the same platform.

A few years ago when I started listening to the Book Riot podcast, it made me aware that I’d fallen into the pattern of reading the same authors and types of work. Not that those stories aren’t worth telling, but rather that other stories are worth telling also. So, I started curating a list of diverse reading on my Goodreads to read list. But I still didn’t get around to reading so many of those books until just a few months ago. Why? Well, I still have a whole library of books I own at home that I haven’t read and need to get through. Having those books I own still sitting on my shelf made it easy to keep with my reading patterns. I knew I still wasn’t reading diversely, but I had no one to hold me accountable.

With the use of reading challenges and book clubs though, the excuses stopped. Having people to discuss the books with made it easier to choose diverse stories. More than that, having a planned out list for reading challenges made me more conscious of what I was choosing to read, and I’m grateful for that. The reason I’m writing about this is because truly diving in diverse reading has made me aware that I really don’t know much about other cultures.

 

Image from Goodreads

Ken Liu’s work is the first I’ve read by a Chinese writer. Edwidge Danticat’s book is the first perspective I’ve read about Haitian immigrants and the political struggles that country has gone through. Nnedi Okorafor’s novel is the first time I’m delving into African culture. With just these three books, I’ve been introduced to new worlds that gave me an appreciation for what I still have yet to learn. I don’t want to be the kind of person who never thinks of other cultures and ways of living and buries her head in the sand. I want to learn about other people. I want to understand others’ stories and hear their voices. We can learn so much about each other through our stories, so I think all readers should make an effort to start diversifying their bookshelves. It’s not enough to make lists without taking action.

How do you all diversify you’re reading? What books have you read recently that tell a story different from your own life?