When I first heard the title of this book, I thought actual Indians. Like the Indians who live in the South Asian country with a diverse terrain and the second most-populous world in the country. But then I saw the art on the cover of the book and realized what I was getting my self into.
I loved this book. It reminded me of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney that I used to (and still might) read.
Alexie's novel is captivating and brilliant in many ways. The story dictates the life of the narrator, a Native American teenager named Arnold Spirit Jr., detailing his life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The novel starts off with Arnold mentioning that he was born with hydrocephalus and thus is small and suffers from seizures. Throughout the book, readers experience Arnold's lifestyle such as learning that his family is poor (a condition he attributes to being a Native), his awkward personality, and his love for basketball. The story is saddening, but with a comedic twist as Arnold tries to stay positive and make something of himself to prove that he can be anything he wants. Arnold struggles with typical adolescent issues like bullying, self esteem, girls, and masturbation, but what seems to make all of this worse for him is poverty and the isolation of his reservation from everyone else. I found it interesting to read a comedic version of this perspective and think that Alexie wrote it this way to shed some light onto a dark reality for FNMI populations.
What I found intriguing was the character of Mr. P, a White geometry teacher who regrets "beating the Indian out of the children" in his years of teaching. Mr. P ends up with a broken nose because Arnold throws a book at him, which leads to Mr. P making a home visit to Arnold's house. The best part of their discussion was the following:
"If you stay on this rez," Mr. P said, "they're going to kill you. I'm going to kill you. We're all going to kill you. You can't fight us forever."
"I don't want to fight anybody," I said.
"You've been fighting since you were born," he said. "You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope."
I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply my hope.
"Where is hope?" I asked. "Who has hope?"
"Son," Mr. P said. "You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation."
This was my favourite part of the book because it provided Arnold with hope in what seems to be a hopeless situation. I believe all teachers should provide this type of support to all students and encourage them to strive for the best.