I read this book as part of a pledge I made to read at least one banned book a month in 2023. I selected from the American Library Association’s Read These Banned Books guide, which includes 52 banned books.
In this book, Arnold Spirit, Jr. lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation with his family and his best friend Rowdy.
After Junior starts to realize his life is going nowhere, one of his teachers plants the seed that he should go to school off the “rez”. Junior decides to make the daily trek across town to go to the rich white high school where he is the only Native American student.
Despite the breezy writing style, the diary covers heavy subject matter, like death, systemic racism, and discrimination. It offers a depressing look at life on a reservation, detailing violence, abuse, poverty, and rampant alcoholism, albeit in a humorous way.
Ellen Forney’s witty illustrations enhance the story. The drawings were a perfect companion to the writing, often making me laugh out loud right along with Alexie’s hilarious one-liners.
The basketball scenes, when Junior played against Rowdy and his former school, were some of my favorites in the book. The scenes were well written, letting me feel all of the emotional highs and lows right along with Arnold.
I can’t understand why this book has been banned, though that’s not surprising since I don’t agree with book banning. It is a touching, memorable story that anyone who has ever felt left out can connect with. It is the kind of book that high school students will want to read.
I was not aware of the sexual harassment allegations against the author until after I read the book and began reading other reviews. This knowledge did not affect my review but I can certainly see why it might affect your decision to read the book.
Reviews of other frequently banned books can be found here.
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