Yay for us for picking this book for book club!
I’m amazed and delighted and impressed by this book. Confident in its Young Adult-ness, it then refuses to pull any punches. I learned so much, and am so glad that “youth” everywhere have this available to them.
I think it’s fair to say that we all have an awareness on some level or another how much the Reservations system has failed the Native Americans and Native Canadians across this continent. How hard life is on the reservations. How much tragedy is just a part of daily life. Did you see the Samantha Bee piece on tribal law? Go watch it, I’ll wait.
And yet, this book is about hope. It’s also about grief, and guilt, and gratitude, and other g-words… um… gumption. Growing up. Gamily. Gaking charge of your own guture. It’s a lovely coming-of-age story in a crap environment that sugarcoats nothing, but still manages to celebrate silver linings.
I particularly loved, when Junior was deep in his grief, the moment when he started making lists of things that make him happy. I loved this kid, and I wanted him to succeed, and also not feel badly about his bright future. The double-edged sword that is succeeding-by-leaving is brutal, an impossible burden for a child. And I’m so impressed by how wide-open his eyes were about the challenge of carrying that burden.
They say (“they” = the back of the book) that this is “inspired by [Sherman Alexie’s] own experiences growing up.” That makes me want to read more of Alexie’s work, and see how he brings those experiences to his fiction. Because the prose is amazing, and poignant, and immensely quotable without being trite. I read the entire book in almost one sitting. What a painful delight.