The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Hello, readers, whoever and wherever you are!

I admit that over the past few weeks I have been extremely negligent of this blog, and I apologize. I’ve been busy, and I expect that you have been too. However, as a writer, that is not an acceptable excuse (or is it ever in my book) so I will have to try to make it up over the next couple of days. 

Yet I have something important to do this afternoon (soccer game!) so I can’t write for long. Therefore I will write a short review of a rather short book. 

I was (and am) required to read this book for class. I ended up reading the whole thing within, oh, an hour or two on a bus ride because I’d finished the other book I’d brought with me (review to come: Lee Martin’s The Bright Forever) and, I hate to say it, was bored. So I read the whole book and now have to go back and annotate in chunks for class. 

The story: A Native American kid named Junior (aka Arnold, though that comes in later) lives on a reservation in Spokane, Washington. He lives a pretty miserable life, getting beat up all the time, one best and only friend, and a decaying family life. He also has a passion for school and was born with a brain defect (same kind that a cousin of mine had, actually), and is picked on for both of those things too. 

One day, Junior decides that he wants to get off the reservation. He wants to change his life. He wants to find hope. And where does he think hope will be? With the white people in a town twenty two miles away in a high school called Reardan. Junior goes to the school, becoming Arnold at this point because it’s his official name and is also “more white,” and starts a new life there. I can’t give away much besides that, but let’s just say that he goes through many ups and downs like most everyone else, especially high school-aged kids, and this is magnified by the situations he’s put in. 

This book was just okay. Just okay. Although Junior curses some in it, it seems less like a Young Adult book and more like an upper-level kids book, built for early middle or late elementary school kids. It is structured a bit like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (which I’ve only heard about and glanced at the inside of one), because it has cartoons and pictures built into it, which make it really fast to read. The reason we’re reading it for class is that it’s a good introductory book to a lot of topics and discussions that may be too blatant or complex in other texts to have deep discussions on. It is not a meaty book, but it is funny at times, and is interesting to bring up ideas like race, poverty, bullying and discrimination, and white privilege (which was our discussion topic yesterday). 

Sherman Alexie has a direct way of writing that conveys emotions really well. My favorite parts of the book were with Gordy, especially at the beginning of their relationship, as that was what I could connect best to. No matter what your life experience, there are ways to connect to the emotions Alexie puts forth in the book. 

That said, the book gets two and a half stars. It’s okay. Just okay, like I said before. I know a couple kids to refer to it to read, but it is not a book for kids above maybe age twelve unless they really want to analyze it. And if they analyze at least a little like I do, they will find that there isn’t much there vocal-wise, or style-wise, that make this book a YA pick. I did enjoy it some, and will continue to try to annotate it deeply for class (there are great connections to other texts to be made at parts). 

Enjoy your week! I will get to posting for two other books, and quotes, soon. Stay tuned, read lots, and have fun!

-Nicole

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

We had to read this for class, and I found it highly interesting and a good debate topic (which is why we were reading it for class in the first place). First thing to be re-blogged to AB&AB, and I promise that I will post later!
-Nicole

Whatever

I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?

Being a white guy who likes women, here’s how I would do it:

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a…

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It’s That Kind of Morning

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Today is that kind of morning. 

The kind of morning where you wake up slowly. 

Where you read for hours on end. 

Where the light comes through the window slats at a perfect angle. 

And all you want to do is sit and stare. 

The kind of morning where you have nothing you have to do. 

Where you did all of your parent-teacher conferences that you had to sit in on yesterday. 

Which were extremely nice and flattering but still perfectly awkward. 

Sitting in when teachers talk about you to your parents?

As much as I love my teachers, it can still get awkward. 

Trust me. 

Back to this morning. 

I am catching up on posting on this blog. 

And planning what I’m going to bake. 

There’s a whole board I have on Pinterest for that. 

I think it has 784 pins. 

Or something like that. 

A lot to bake. 

Just like I have a lot of books on my shelf to read. 

Like Adam Grant’s Give and Take. Which I should get to reading instead of posting here. 

Because it means I will have a post for next week. 

So goodbye. 

Enjoy this kind of morning. 

Read good books. As always. 

And have fun!

Nicole

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

Some people who know me well know that I don’t watch many movies.

I just don’t. It’s a thing.

Plus, it’s hard for me to find a movie that I really love.

So I will often end up watching a movie with great intentions and then disliking or detesting it. Yes, I have several great kids movies in my arsenal, having just come off of that period in my life. And yes, I have several fantastic adult ones too.

Including, (she says guiltily) “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

I only say this guiltily because my dad happens to have a large number of suspicions about the quality of the movie- in terms of acting, themes, production, etc. He has a degree in filmmaking.

But I use this as a guilty pleasure movie. And it is perfect for Saturday night in, especially if it’s rainy and you can hear the rain outside during the rain in the cab scene.

So when I saw this book, Fifth Avenue, 5 AM: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson on my recommended books list on Amazon (which is something else altogether, let me tell you), I bought it without second thought or even a peek inside. (This, for those who don’t know me well, is an extremely rare occurrence, as I almost always look inside books, especially online, to determine their “worth” to me before purchasing. So this was a big deal.)

It came in the mail with Adam Grant’s Give and Take and a package of graph paper. (You happen to get a glimpse of my online shopping habits as a perk of this post. Yipee.) I was in the middle of Friday Night Lights, but I read it next. And while I would say that I was not disappointed, I wouldn’t say I was greatly surprised either.

This book, pretty obviously by the long title, is about “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I thought it was about feminism in “Tiffany’s” (the shorthand they use in the book too), but it wasn’t so much. A lot of this book was about the dynamics between the people working on making the movie; Truman Capote, who wrote the novella, Blake Edwards, the director, Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Harry Mancini, who created “Moon River,” and a bunch of other people. I found it a bit confusing, eventually, because there were so many people. While it seems a bit strange that in two of the books I’ve read recently I’ve mentioned too many characters, it could be because I can somehow read five or even seven books at once that are very different. Too many characters in one book who are so similar confuse me.

Now, that cast of characters (pun intended) wasn’t painful to read about like in some other books. I love Audrey Hepburn, so it was nice to read about her, and the little adventures of hers while they made the movie. I was surprised that they said that George Peppard was such a jerk, though I can see that they subtly played that in the movie a little bit. Paul Varjak is not the nicest of NYC implant guys.

When I say that it had less feminism than I thought, it was because most of the feminism they talked about was a chapter or two in the beginning-middle about how much sex appeal they could pull off with the times, and about the choice of Audrey Hepburn for that. There was no direct analyzation of symbolism as I was hoping there would be; clues in on the behind-the-scenes choices that the editors chose to make that impacted the way it was and is viewed. Not really happening in this book.

So, this book gets three and a half stars. I liked it well enough, but not that much. It didn’t really give me what I’d been expecting, and when it did, it was for an extremely short while- maybe not even half a page. Read this book if you’re a lover of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and want a guide-to-the-making-of-the-movie type of thing. Plus, you’ll get a couple pockets of feminism and choices made. Do not read this thinking that it will be a guide to analyzing the movie as I did, because you will be disappointed.

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I should be off to read Give and Take now, to try to finish that and determine what I’m baking next week. Baking is going to be epic. I’ll post pictures. And hopefully a post on that wonderful Adam Grant book sitting in my room. And quotes. Or something like that.

Have a great day and pick up a great book!

Nicole

Blast from the Past: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Hi guys, 

I am crazy-busy with homework and soccer and trying to get ready for all sorts of things happening this weekend, so please be patient about waiting for the Fifth Avenue, 5 AM post. I really appreciate it. You guys rock. 

Anyways, here’s a Wacky Wednesday Blast from the Past:

I wrote this book review about a year ago just for me, and I thought I would post it just to keep things fresh. Plus, it’s kinda funny to read what I was thinking back then about this book that, in truth, wasn’t all that amazing. But I sure was positive!

Here ya go:

Nic’s Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

                  I absolutely love it when books are addicting. It makes me feel giddy, like I’m two or three years old again. I love it. There is nothing better to me than an addicting book. And I would probably say The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one.

                  I got sucked in by it, so much that I bought it on Amazon, which is a feat in itself; because it was surrounded by lots of other books I could’ve bought instead. I knew I made the right choice when I picked it up and got sucked in like a vacuum. I just thought: I was right; this is good!

                  The characters in themselves are complex and diabolical. Mara is delusional, tricking readers’ minds but humble in admittance. Her feelings resonate true, and her plot line is quite interesting to follow. Jamie is funny and helpful, and although you don’t know much about him, you’re glad he’s at Mara’s side. Noah is an amazing writer’s feat- calm and compassionate, satirical and flirty, and ultimately consuming. The way he interacts with Daniel, and Mara especially, makes you go tingly all over.

                  Set in modern Florida, the book’s setting doesn’t play a huge role until the Everglades and Joseph come into play. There’s just enough detail so you can picture things, but not too much that it’s overwhelming. There are fantastic descriptions of surroundings and sounds, because they play a role. The funky elitism of Croyden and the strange secrets of the places make me happy I read it.

                  The mystery is undeniable. The overwhelming secret is strange and a plot line. I didn’t love love when the book turned totally paranormal towards the end, because I think there are too many sappy fantasy novels out there. But that was just the end, and a minor detail, so don’t think too much when picking up this book. If you’re looking for Twilight all over again, don’t read it. But if you’re drawn to suspense and well-written characters, please devour this book.

                  I give the book four and a half stars because it is pretty close to amazing. The storyline at the end is confusing and the paranormal part is on overload at the close, which might be cleared up if I reread it, but I have other books on my list right now. My final verdict is this: if you have an empty weekend and a love for books, find The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer at your library. You won’t regret it.

It is very funny to me that this doesn’t hardly sound like any of my reviews now. Or maybe it does to you. I don’t know. I feel that my writer’s voice in class has grown a lot over the past couple of weeks, and maybe I’m just not translating that here as well. Who knows.

I may add more of these slightly out-of-date reviews every so often, and I hope that they give you just another book to add to the reading list, or a moment to laugh at weird jokes I made on your coffee break. 

Have a great day!

Nicole

Friday Night Lights

This is the first of two book reviews today. Both are nonfiction. I think that may be a record for me, as I hardly ever read nonfiction. As in, ever. But here I am, reading nonfiction. And mostly enjoying it. 

Friday Night Lights was the book that started it all. It sparked the movie, and then the television series. And a bunch of backlash against Bissinger, but that’s another story. 

I had watched the TV series this summer. Well, seasons one to four of it. I have season five left, though I suspect it’ll be an activity sometime soon on break. I love the series. I love all of the “I don’t want to know these people in real life though I adore them as characters on TV” people: Matt Saracen, Tim Riggins, THE TAYLORS… Eric and Tami and Julie… 

Anyways, I love that. And I knew I’d be biased going into this book because of that. I knew that it’d be creative nonfiction, and I wasn’t sure how the author, H.G. Bissinger, would translate that. And now after reading the book, I’m still a little confused. 

Let me start from the beginning. The premise of the book: A writer named H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger got word of this town in Texas, Odessa, that was obsessed with football. As in, the whole town revolved around it. So he got permission to use the 1988 season to follow the team and research the town and write a book about it. And thus, Friday Night Lights was born. 

The book weaves back and forth between the stories of the football players and their feelings (gathered, presumably, through interviews during the season) and other background about the town and research that Bissinger did. I like this style in general, as Rebecca Skloot used the same in her incredible creative nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which I reviewed here). However, I don’t think it worked as well for Bissinger. 

First of all, there were too many story threads. I found it a bit of a challenge to follow the stories of all of the football players. Sure, some of them were very distinct, especially Boobie Miles and Brian Chavez. But the majority of the other players that Bissinger profiles blend together. I can clearly conjure the idea he wants to give of the stereotypical Permian High School football player. I don’t need three confusing extra profiles to do that. 

Second, the obviously deeply-researched tangents that Bissinger went on did not help enlighten me. There were some great adjoining stories, some interesting comments by townspeople. And I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but if an author mentions someone at the top of one page briefly and then goes for two or three pages without reminding the reader of who they are, I get confused. Like, what are they doing here? Huh? Bissinger did that several times. 

My favorite part character-wise was either the mid-book portrayal of Brian Chavez or the coach’s wife at the end. The coach’s wife had a fresh, fascinating perspective. It was eloquent, well-written, and tense with stress in a way that made the reader feel sympathetic to it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I did like this book. I found it a very complexly woven example of creative nonfiction. The best thing it helped highlight was the boom-bust cycles of the town, which may have been over-talked about because I remember that in a stronger way than some of the football ties. 

I could find certain connections to the TV series. I could tell where they drew some of their character ideas and plot points. And sure, those are tailored and not real people that producers created, but Bissinger also could’ve done a better job deepening and highlighting his football players too. 

I give FNL three and a half stars. Reasons to read this book: Great introduction. Boom-bust profile. Realizing that your town’s fanaticism can’t possibly be as bad as this. Feeling bad for someone who was written about in here, or the town in general. A pretty good example of a creative nonfiction book (even though I’d say to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks first). You get a free copy in the mail from your dad that’s a used hard cover, like I did 🙂 Reasons not to read this book: Confusing at times. Less plot and suspense than expected. Not what you want to read if you expect the TV series in a book. 

I will follow this with the next book I read, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson. I’m currently in Give and Take by Adam Grant, which is marvelous.

More to come!

Nicole