Author: Sherman Alexie
Illustrator: Ellen Forney
Publication Date: 2007
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Multicultural Literature
Reading Level/Interest Age: 14-18
Plot Summary: Fourteen-year old Arnold Spirit, Jr. – also goes by the name Junior – lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation and decides to make a life changing decision pave a way to a better future for him. Instead of attending the usual high school where most of his classmates are going to next year, Junior decides to attend a high school that is far from the reservation that has an all-white student body. Making this type of decision (not following the norm like all the other kids) is highly looked down upon and so this will create much emotional stir between him and many others on the reservation. Junior will be facing some interesting challenges once he attends the new school both on and off the reservation.
Critical Evaluation: This title has a few vital literary elements that the reader will encounter. The author Sherman Alexie depicts life on the Native American reservation in which Junior lives in and all of the troubling issues the inhabitants struggle with (alcoholism and drug abuse). These conflicts help shape Junior’s character, which brings a new realization about his future. Alexie has brilliantly crafted a point of view through a 14 year old boy where he is able to be completely aware of his potential future if he continues to go down the same path as all of the other teenagers on the reservation. The character development of Junior is astounding starting from the very beginning of the book where he decides to make a life changing choice and to go to a different school outside of the reservation.
Reader’s Annotation: Imagine living in town where alcoholism thrives in and there is a high possibility that you will eventually be consumed by it. If you the chance to change your fate and taking a risk of being condemned a traitor, would you do it?
About the Author: According to Wikipedia and About.com, the life that Junior lived is very similar to Sherman Alexie’s life. Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian reservation with his parents, and five other siblings. His mother was a Spokane descent and his father was of Coeur d’Alene descent. Alexie was born with hydrocephalus, which is a condition when an excess amount of cerebral fluid builds up in the cranial cavity and can lead to permanent mental disabilities. Fortunately, after a successful surgery that he had when he was six months old, there was no remaining damage to his mental abilities. The home life was never very pleasant and it was very challenging for him because of bullying and teasing. Eventually, Alexie decides to attend Reardan High School, which was thirty miles away from the reservation where he would be the only student of Native American descent among mostly white students and the mascot was an Indian.
He was able to win a scholarship to Gonzaga University, which is a Roman Catholic school in Spokane, where he wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but was uncomfortable with his anatomy class and so he decided to transfer to Washington State University to study literature and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies. Alexie has won many awards for his writings such as The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Reservation Blues, and Indian Killer.
Curriculum Ties: Multiculturalism, diversity of cultures, and bullying.
- Negative aspects of a culture can follow you no matter where you go
- Dare to challenge you destined fate
- Alcohol abuse
- Sexual content
- I would be sure to study and memorize the library’s collection policy.
- The Library Bill of Rights must also be brought to the challenger’s attention stating that the library is an information institution that provides both information and ideas.
- Have both good and bad reviews (from respected sources) about the book at hand.
- Remember to mention the awards and honors that the item has received.
- Be sure to listen to the person who is challenging the book and do not interrupt them while they are speaking. Try to understand where the patron is coming from when he or she states their concerns about the material.
- When you respond to the challenger, have a calm and respectable tone informing them that the library must do all that it can to provide intellectual freedom to its patrons, young and old.
Why this book? This book is one of my favorites and it dives into different topics that are important for young adults. Seeing the journey that Junior embarks on starting with the decision he makes to better his future to the experiences within his first year at Reardan High School, is something that must be shared with teens.