If only it had been 1988, my outward physical appearance would have matched my giddy excitement to see Sherman Alexi this weekend at Wordstock. I'm still claiming Steinbeck as my most favorite author of all time, but Alexi is fast becoming my favorite author who is currently still alive and still creating.
I was basically entertained for two hours. It was way better than any night at the Comedy Club in Portland. (There was an era in our early married life where we kept receiving free tickets to go this place of sure laughs....for me, sure bummers. It takes a lot to get me to laugh. My husband will be laughing hysterically in a movie and finally turn and ask, "Are you finding this funny at all?" Yep, I do. Just laughing inside.)
Well, Sherman made me laugh and made me think! That's why I love his writing...laughing and thinking, great combination.
I'm reading his newest book, War Dances, and will give a report as soon as I finish it, but recently a book group I'm involved with read his YA book, The Absolutely True Story of a Half-Time Indian. Here is a review/summary of our last book discussion: (It first appeared in our MOPS chapter newsletter.)
It was a resounding success. Everyone read it, enjoyed it, and recommended that others read it. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was our last read. It is a young adult book, which was one of our major discussion points.
We all felt that this book had great value and relatability for young readers. (Some school districts have banned this book. I’ll let you ask one of us why.) This book would be a perfect read for a reluctant reader. It is fast-paced and honest. Plus, there are cartoons throughout that add layers of understanding to the story.
Even though Diana pointed out that this book is a tragedy, Sherman’s main character (who is basically him) uses enough humor to keep readers engaged and give us a little hope.
Actually the whole book is about hope and choice. Junior is a Spokane Indian living in Eastern Washington on Wellpinit. (FYI: I drive through/beside Wellpinit once a year to visit my husband’s relatives/family cabin. This last summer we drove through at three in the morning, and I made my husband wake me up for the event. This is where you should all be mocking me.) Junior is encouraged by one of his teachers to get out and break the cycle of poverty and alcoholism in his family and his tribe. To do this he must leave his people and attend the neighboring white school in Reardan.
One of my favorite lines is when Junior realizes that there are now two Indians at Reardan High, him and the mascot.
His tribe rejects him for leaving. He is very much alone, yet his parents give him the silent support he needs. “Yep, my daddy was an undependable drunk. But he’d never missed any of my organized games, concerts, plays, or picnics. He may not have loved me perfectly, but he loved me as well as he could.”
His best friend Rowdy sums up the core message of the book in a conversation with Junior:
“So anyway, he said, “I was reading this book about old-time Indians, about how we used to be nomadic.”
Yeah,” I said.
“So I looked up nomadic in the dictionary, and it means people who move around, who keep moving, in search of food and water and grazing land....Well, the thing is, I don’t think Indians are nomadic anymore. Most Indians, anyway.....hardly anybody on this rez is nomadic. Except for you. You’re the nomadic one.”
“No, I’m serious. I always knew you were going to leave. I always knew you were going to leave us behind and travel the world. I had this dream about you a few months ago. You were standing on the Great Wall of China. You looked happy. And I was happy for you.”
This book tells young people that they can choice. They have a choice. They can break the unhealthy cycles in their families and communities.
Our next book is Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. If you’ve ever been interested in Jewish faith or culture, this book will hold your interest. It takes place on the East Coast during the 20’s and 30’s. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl named Davita. Her mother grew up as a Hassidic Jew, but rejected its values and beliefs and embraced instead the ideals of Communism.
However, this story is not about communism, but a greater need in all of us for faith, community, and relationships. I’m very excited to see where our discussion takes us!
November: Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potock
December: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow
January: Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini