Arnold Spirit (aka Junior) is a 14 year old Indian boy on a Spokane reservation. He’s an outcast with a lot of physical problems, but when he decides to attend school off-reservation, people turn on him even more. He has to cope with being considered a traitor by his own people, and also try to fit in as the only Native American among a group of small-town whites.
Confession: I’m not sure I’ve ever read any book about Native Americans. If I have, it hasn’t been since I was in school. This admission makes me both ashamed and embarrassed. I’m not sure how I missed this gap. I’ve read about all sorts of cultures all over the world, and somehow managed to skip this one. I feel doubly stupid because my great-great grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee who lived on a reservation in Oklahoma. You’d think I’d have read something about this part of my past, you know? Sigh.
This was a good book. There were, I admit, things in it that I didn’t like. Potty humor and vomiting and stuff. But those parts were pretty mild. Skating by those things, the rest of the book was very poignant. I don’t know if any of Arnold’s life was based on Alexie’s, but it felt real enough to have been memoir. It felt like Alexie drew on his own experiences for this book. I hope I’ve grown a little bit after reading it. I hope I understand a bit more about the prejudice that exists towards Native Americans. Since I’m in a part of the world where I really don’t know anyone who is from that culture, it’s hard for me to see what it’s like – I’ve never even seen a reservation – but this book opened my eyes a little bit. I want to read more now.
I’m not sure what else to say. The book is so outside my comfort zone and experience that it’s hard to comment on it. A bunch of little things occurred to me while reading but for some reason I can’t seem to put any of it into words. That’s frustrating.