Tag: Native American

Oct 13

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Coming of Age, Psychological 7

Greetings Bookworms!

You may have noticed over the past month or so that I’ve been on a little bit of a Native American author kick. Since it’s been such an awesome ride so far, when I was contacted by Open Road Media to check out Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, I jumped at the offer. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. This in no way reflects opinions expressed on the novel.*

monkeybeachMonkey Beach centers on a Native American family in British Columbia. (I can still say Native American when referring to native peoples who reside in what is now Canada, right? I mean, the US kind of bogarted the term “American” despite the fact that there are TWO FULL CONTINENTS who have a claim on it.)

20 year old Lisamarie Hill had a crazy childhood. She finds herself reliving her life’s journey in a speedboat while she travels to meet her parents in the place her brother Jimmy went missing (and is presumed drowned.) The Haisla community Lisa hails from has seen its own share of trials including alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence. and untimely deaths. Lisa’s own predicament is complicated by the fact that she deals not only in the physical world, but the spiritual world as well. She doesn’t understand her “gift” and struggles to reconcile Haisla traditions with contemporary Canadian life.

This book was pretty intense. I mean, what IS IT with the Native American authors bringing the pain? Travelling back and forth between Lisa’s past and present was a bit jarring, but I think it stylistically served to demonstrate how scattered Lisa is feeling while reeling from yet another potential loss. Robinson also has some mad skills with describing scenery. I felt like I could see the beaches and channels and forests described in this novel. Plus the cuisine? I mean, I can’t say that I’m aching to try oolichan grease, but you’ve got to respect a writer who can describe fish grease, soapberry foam, and the intricacies of blueberry picking and make it INTERESTING. Respect.

If you’re looking for a book to break your heart and teach you more than you ever really wanted to know about fish grease, Monkey Beach is where it’s at!

Talk to me Bookworms! What’s the last gut-wrenching book you tackled?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 25

Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Banned Books, Young Adult Fiction 27

Hey There, Bookworms!

It’s still Banned Books Week, and I’m still celebrating Diversiverse. Today’s book has popped up on the list of Top Ten Banned Books over and over again in recent years, so OF COURSE I had to find out what all the fuss was about. I picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and started reading.
BBWDiversiverse

Frankly, I’m having a heck of a time figuring out why everyone is so worked up about this book. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the semi-autobiographical tale of Sherman Alexie’s first year in an all white high school. The main character, Arnold “Junior” Spirit, is a brilliant kid living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Confronted with the daily frustrations of life and the limited opportunities on the reservation (and, well, an incident involving the violent flinging of a textbook) Arnold decides to leave the high school on the reservation to attend the school of a nearby farming community. I’m going to list some objections from book banners and challengers, then discuss why I think they’re wrong. Cool?

theabsolutelytruediaryofaparttimeindianObjection the First: The language in the book is rather colorful. Then again, I’ve yet to meet a 14 year old who is scandalized by profanity.

Objection the Second: Arnold has a penchant for, uh, self pleasure. But dude. He’s a 14 year old boy. That’s a pretty universal 14 year old boy experience. Virtually all the sexual encounters in this book (aside from a few fairly chaste kisses) are done solo. No underage sex. No teen pregnancy. No STDs.

Objection the Third: This book deals with racism, head on. Pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Getting inside the head of someone different than you might make a difference though.

Objection the Fourth: There’s also quite a lot of discussion of the rampant alcoholism that plagues the reservation. I don’t think anybody is really thrilled to think their kids might take up drinking at a tender age, but this book makes one of the strongest anti-alcohol cases I’ve ever read. If anything, I think it would prevent kids from touching the stuff.

In short, SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS?! Don’t ban this book. It’s a fantastic coming-of-age story. It is tragic and heartbreaking and wonderful and difficult- just like being a teenager. It’s also got some killer illustrations which offers a little extra something to the reluctant reader crowd. Everybody likes a cartoon, I tell you! Although, maybe y’all should keep banning it. Nothing will get teenagers to read something faster than hearing adults tell them they can’t! Here’s a bio of the mastermind behind the controversy:

Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date. Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman’s best known works include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

 Let’s chat, Bookworms. You remember being a teenager, surely? Was there any activity made more appealing to you by the fact that your parents or other authority figures didn’t want you to do it? I’m curious, really, because I was really rather dull and my parents didn’t make any attempts to restrict my reading material…

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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