STD Conferences and YA Lit

31 May

Once upon a time (7 years ago to be exact), I was a senior in college and also the president of my school’s chapter of the English honorary society, Sigma Tau Delta. You would think that English majors would pay attention to words and how they can be skewed, but apparently not in this case – the shortened name for the English honorary society is STD. Lovely, huh?

So anyway, as the president of my local STD chapter, I had to attend a conference in Boise, Idaho. What better way is there to spend Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, I ask you? As fate would have it, I met DH Mike at this conference, and the rest (as they say) is history. However, my BFF Ann likes to tell people that I met my husband at an STD conference. It does make for an amusing story, I suppose.

Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this story today is because something else happened at that conference that is actually relevant to this post. Among the many guest speakers at the conference, the highlight was Sherman Alexie. Since I’m participating in the 2009 YA Book Challenge, I just finished reading Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian this weekend. What follows is my review of the book.

Cover art stolen from

Cover art stolen from

To be honest, when I first chose this book for my list of YA books for 2009, I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to read it. I had been hearing about it for a few months, and kind of waffling in my thoughts about it. But when it showed up on the 2009-10 Florida Teens Read list, I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’m really glad I did.

The narrator/hero of this story is Arthur Spirit, Jr., a Spokane Indian with a defective brain. He has a condition where he has excessive water on the brain, and this makes him physically different than other kids, which we all know is a bad thing to be in a coming-of-age novel. Junior suffers through the taunts of the kids on the reservation, and most of the adults, too. Despite his physical limitations, Junior is incredibly bright, and one day he comes to the realization that his reservation education sucks majorly. So he tells his parents he wants to go to school in the nearby white neighborhood of Reardon.

Going to Reardon means a lot of things for Junior: his fellow Indians hate him for selling out to the white folks, the white folks think he’s weird for being the only Indian (besides the mascot) in the school, and he’s going to get a much better education than he would have had otherwise. During his freshman year at Reardon, Junior suffers – and learns – a lot. This book had me alternately laughing out loud and crying with the ups and downs of Junior’s young life. His narrative voice is full of wit and candor, and I couldn’t help but be sucked into his story.

I highly recommend this one for anyone who was ever a teenager. It’s a really great read.


2 Responses to “STD Conferences and YA Lit”

  1. Steve June 2, 2009 at 6:30 am #

    I liked this book too and liked your review. I bought it for my 16 year old. I live near where the author grew up and it helped me understand a little bit about some of the problems that Tribal members face.


  1. Deckled Edges - August 13, 2009

    Review – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian…

    Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
    Author: Sherman Alexie
    Published: 2007
    Genre: Young Adult
    Rating: 4 of 5
    After some prompting from a teacher, Arnold Spirit, Jr. decides to leave his reservation’s high school and enroll…

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