Art by Ellen Forney
The Book Blurb:
Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed.
Inspired by his own experiences growing up, award-winning author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live.
What Hooked Me:
Having had an unintentional run of depressing (but really good) books lately, I was looking for a funny and light story and this book was a welcome change and the perfect choice. However, I do have to admit that I would have laughed harder, if fourteen-year-old Junior's unique predicament of living in both worlds (with his family at the rez in Wellpinit and his new friends at the all-white school in Reardan) wasn't also quite sad and touching. The art sketches are outstanding and really compliment Junior's wity personality and his memorable story.
'I was born with water on the brain.
Okay, so that's not exactly true. I was actually born with too much cerebral spinal fluid inside my skull. But cerebral spinal fluid is just the doctor's fancy way of saying brain grease. And brain grease works inside the lobes like car grease works inside an engine. It keeps things running smooth and fast. But weirdo me, I was born with too much grease inside my skull, and it got all thick and muddy and disgusting, and it only mucked up the works. My thinking and breathing and living engine slowed down and flooded.'(opening lines)
'My brain damage left me nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other, so my ugly glasses were all lopsided because my eyes were so lopsided.
I get headaches because my eyes are, like, enemies, you know, like they use to be married to each other but now hate each other's guts.'(3)
I draw because words are too unpredictable.
I draw because words are too limited.
If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get you meaning.
But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it.'(5)
'But we reservation Indians don't get to realize our dreams. We don't get those chances. Or choices. We're just poor. That's all we are.'(13)
"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.'(41)
'Getting to school was always an adventure.'(87)
'Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the little white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger.
I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.
'I've learned that the worst thing a parent can do is to ignore their children.'(153)
"I used to think the world was broken down by tribes." I said. "By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn't true. The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not."(176)
'I made a list of my favorite books:
1. Grapes of Wrath
2. Catcher in the Rye
3. Fat Kid Rules the World
7. Invisible Man
8. Fools Crow
9. Jar of Fools ...
I kept making list after list of the things that made me feel joy. And I kept drawing cartoons of the things that made me angry. I keep writing and rewriting, drawing and redrawing, and rethinking and revising and reediting. It became my grieving ceremony.'(177)
'Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? It's one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they're the four hugest words in the world when they're put together.
You can do it.'(189)
'I'm fourteen years old and I've been to forty-two funerals.
That's really the biggest difference between Indians and white people.'(199)
'Gordy gave me this book by a Russian dude named Tolstoy, who wrote: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Well, I hate to argue with a Russian genius, but Tolstoy didn't know Indians. And he didn't know that all Indian families are unhappy for the same exact reason: the fricking booze.'(200)
'The reservation is beautiful.
I mean it.
Take a look.
There are pine trees everywhere. Thousands of ponderosa pine trees. Millions. I guess maybe you can take pine trees for granted. They're just pine trees. But they're tall and thin and green and brown and big.
Some of the pines are ninety feet tall and more than three hundred years old.
Older than the United States.'(219)
a Little, Brown first paperback edition,March 2009
An awesome review of this book by Adam @ The Roof Beam Reader is HERE