This past Tuesday, I was inducted into the Sherman Alexie fan club immediately after reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in five and a half hours. I would have finished all 230 pages of youthfully large font sooner if I hadn’t uncontrollably sobbed my way through the first third of the book, variable pockets of the middle, and a large portion of the end, pausing every four minutes to reread Alexie’s poignant and deeply affecting prose over again through fresh bouts of blinding tears.
Best book I have read to date. And it’s meant for fourteen year olds.
I have never wept so hard and so consistently through any story I’ve ever read or borne witness to, and I have tear ducts that start welling at the mere mention of “Pixar.” When the devoted mother in Mrs. Weasley surged forth and reaped its murderous revenge on Bellatrix Lestrange, the dormant, wannabe mom in me bawled in empathy even though I haven’t the slightest idea what it actually feels like to protect your children, and when Joey the title character of War Horse pummeled his way through barbed wire in a mad frenzy, I think I actually pleaded with my dad’s TV, begging it to stop the torture in spite of my disinterest with horse stories ever since Black Beauty stopped awing me at six. But somehow, Sherman Alexie’s first novel intended for young adults trumped the hordes of tear-jerkers from my past.
Despite the incessant blinking I had to engage in just to read through the overactive floodgates that anatomy classes would have you believe are eyes, The Absolutely True Diary wasn’t depressing. Instead, it was life affirming, educational, and cathartic in the sense that it exhumed relatable pain from your own past, even if you’d never endured anything so tragic as the young protagonist. It was hopeful, cunning, and refreshingly frank in the ways that every teenage novel should be: eradicating the censorship a Young Adult sticker generally necessitates. It was inspiring, yet eye-openingly devastating, and it was a read that made me fall so head-over-heels in love with the voice of youth, the notion of community, and the responsibilities of an inherently nomadic soul, that I want to return to my former career as a middle school art teacher and dole out this book as a more effective creative tool than any splayed paint brush or hand full of quick-dry clay.
I really, really needed Arnold Spirit Jr., the main character, in this uncertain chapter of my life, and I thank my mom (and the committee that surprisingly allowed her to read this book with her summer school students) for telling me during a phone conversation that this was the next book I needed to read, ignoring my question of “Why?” with the same mysterious elusiveness my parents always employ when they know seeking the answers for ourselves will be more beneficial in the long run.
Having finished this charming novel, I feel revitalized. I feel inspired. And without giving anything away, I feel that others should place library holds on this gem with the same sense of obliviously piqued curiosity that I did. I promise, whether you’re just entering the throes of puberty or registering as a methuselah at your local DMV, this book is well worth the read. Now off I go to spend what few precious, apartment rent-destined dollars I have on a written account that truly matters.