I can recognize a good book when I see one. The Absolutely True Diary… is touching, thoughtful, considered, and funny. It features a unique protagonist who is fleshed out honestly and whose diverse perspective (drawn from Sherman Alexie’s own experiences) is a valuable addition to the YA landscape. I came away from reading this book not just with an abstractly increased sense of empathy, but with an actual education.
Should this book be widely read and roundly discussed? Yes, absolutely.
Did I “enjoy” reading it? Sigh, not really.
This won’t be a rant, because it only comes down to one thing: I almost universally hate affected “kid patois” in books by adult authors. It’s not even that kids and teens don’t talk that way; I just don’t like reading it when it comes across as so put-on. I should have known that this is what to expect when “Diary” is in the title and therefore the prose would be that casual, confessional style, but I just didn’t enjoy it and and didn’t work for me. I’m a grouch.
Still, I have been appreciative of the reactions that this book prompts. It’s kind of appalling how little exposure I’ve had to Native perspectives in the media and arts, and that’s certainly my bad, but it’s also worth the obvious note that the “establishment” hasn’t really promoted these voices with equal fervor to more dominant narratives. I said earlier that I actually felt better educated after reading the book, and that’s because I know sadly fuck-all about living on or near a reservation and only the broadest strokes of how terribly alcohol has affected these communities. Though The Absolutely True Diary… is a work of fiction, it’s the kind of fiction that is clearly based on facts and lived experiences.