Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007.

Plot Summary
This is the "diary" of Arnold Spirit, a fourteen year old Spokane Indian, who decides to leave the "rez" to attend school at an all white school. He must figure out how to live in both worlds.

Critical Analysis
This book made me laugh! I could relate to how the narrator feels in certain situations and I understood the sarcasm and understatement used in the narrative. Even though there are language issues and sexual content, this book captures the reality of a fourteen year old boy. He is not a normal fourteen year old, which is explained throughout the book.

He makes light of situations that happen to himself and his family, but I believe that is his coping mechanism. He doesn't know what to do or say, so he does or says what comes natural, which is sometimes "nerdy."

Drawings are included in this book which makes the entertainment factor go up even more. His caricatures of what is going on are hilarious. I can't wait to read more Sherman Alexie.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mister Pip

Jones, Lloyd. Mister Pip. New York: Dial Press, 2006.

Plot Summary
Mr. Watts is an oddity. He's white on an island of black people. When the teachers flee the island, Mr. Watts steps in to teach the children. His only text is Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. When the redskins attack the village, Mr. Watts is protected. When the redskins come back, Mr. Watts faces a different fate. This is the "Pacific version of Great Expectations" (Jones 175).

Critical Analysis
I enjoyed reading this book. It took me a little while to understand why Mr. Watts was such an odd thing, but as his story unfolds, we also see how the children he's teaching are taught imagination can save them.

One of my favorite descriptions in this book is when Matilda describes her love affair with this book. "No one had told us kids to look there [in a book] for a friend" (Jones 24). Later Mr. Watts is explaining to Matilda that one "cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe" (Jones 155).

I was disturbed by two events in the story that take place at almost the same time. I won't spoil them here, but the visual that my mind's eye sees about this episode is very disturbing.