Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie has a knack of making you laugh even in times of hardships in this angst-filled book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It tells the story of a 14-year-old boy named Arnold Spirit Jr., who lives on a Spokane Indian Reservation. Arnold was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain), gigantic feet, crazy eyes, ten more teeth than normal, a stutter, and a lisp...not a very great start in life, but he manages well. 

Although he wasn't the most popular kid in school, he most certainly had a great mind. On one particular day as the teacher was handing out the geometry books, he discovered his mother's maiden name in it! He was so enraged by how old and outdated the books were that he threw the book and accidentally hit his teacher in the face. Surprisingly, the teacher didn't get upset; instead, he sat down with Arnold to encourage him to leave the reservation high school to attend a different high school, preferably one that is NOT on the reservation.

Arnold knew that the decision to leave the rez (reservation) would be a treacherous act against his family and friends, but he also knew that staying on the rez would be the death of his future. That night, he went home and boldly told his parents that he wanted to go to Reardan, a rich, white school just outside the rez. The only Indian found on that campus is the school mascot. Despite of this culture shock, Arnold figures out what he needs to do in order to have a chance in life without losing who he is.

Because Part-Time Indian received the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, it has gotten its own fair share of attention, being challenged and banned in many schools due to complaints about its "excerpts on masturbation," and "vulgarity, racism, and anti-Christian content." Others have claimed that the book is "encouraging pornography." In reality, it is a depiction of a young man's coming of age that feels true and sincere.

With a book such as Alexie's, we can enter into a world that we are not a part of and gain a better understanding of a certain culture or ethnic group. We can become more compassionate of others.  Importantly, this book can teach us that no matter where you are from, you can achieve anything. 

“I used to think the world was broken down by tribes,' I said. 'By Black and White. By Indian and White. But I know this isn't true. The world is only broken into two tribes: the people who are assholes and the people who are not.” 

Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

~Dani Green

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

This year N.K. Jemisin became the first person ever to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row for her Broken Earth novels, and I cannot think of a more deserving series. This trilogy, which begins with 2015’s The Fifth Season, is a powerhouse of speculative fiction with amazing world-building and a storyline that is both intricately-plotted and immense in scope.

In The Fifth Season, readers are introduced to Essun, a woman on a mission to track down her ex-husband who has murdered their son and run off with their young daughter. Her plight is complicated by a “fifth season,” a major climate catastrophe that causes increased hardship and violence as cities crumble and ash fills the sky. Essun is an orogene, someone who can shape and control the earth, but has spent much of her life pretending to be normal, in hiding from those who would enslave or kill her because of her race. Now she will need to call upon her powers to protect herself on her difficult journey. Along the way, she comes into contact with a cast of characters who will help and hinder her along the way.

As Essun’s story progresses through the three books, readers come to know her painful back story as well as her present where she truly comes into her power, not just as an orogene, but as a mother and a person willing to fight for the future of the planet.

Jemisin is an amazingly powerful storyteller, adept at detailed world-building and a plot that weaves effortlessly through past, present, and future. Her characters are fully-realized, complex, and dealing with issues of identity, racism, oppression, and coming to terms with the fact that one person’s actions can truly destroy or save the world.  

This is a great series for fans of Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, or anyone looking for an immersive tale with unforgettable characters.

-Portia Kapraun

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Emily falls in love with the man of her dreams. Adam is perfect in every way....well, until she meets his mother Pammie.
Pammie is a very annoying type of woman who runs Adam's life and tries to runs Emily's as well. In Pammie's eyes, Emily can do nothing right. There's nothing this mother wouldn't do for her son, and Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants. After a while Emily starts to put up with abuse from both Adam and his mother. In the middle of the story, a mystery murder comes to the surface.  

This book is exciting and a classic page turner with a "what the heck is going on" feeling. You may think you have it all figured out, but the end is a real shocker in a very surprising way. A great first novel.