Sherman Alexie’s novel tells the story of a cartoon artist named Junior who leaves his Indian reservation to attend an all-white school in order to gain a better education. His family and friends shun him for leaving his heritage behind but in the end he gains a whole new side of himself that he never knew existed. The story is inspired by the author’s personal experiences growing up and having to deal with the expectations put upon him by his Indian heritage and the white world he lives in.
The book was an easy read as it is targeted at pre-teens and it sends a really good message. It discusses serious issues such as dealing with racism but does so with a bit of humor, which is important. Personally, I can also relate to the story as I’m sure many people whose parents immigrated to the U.S. can attest to it also. It is difficult to maintain the cultural values that are placed on young people by their grandparents and parents when they are living in a white-washed, modern world. The main character in the novel had to deal with being different. That is the underlying issue. As soon as he went to the all-white school, things changed. He was no longer the stereotypical “Indian” because he was learning about the cultural norms at the new school. And he could never be “white” because he was from and Indian Reservation. This left him with conflicting ideas and made him feel like he didn’t truly belong in either place. Luckily in the end, he realizes that it is a good thing to be different. It is good to open yourself up to experience other cultures. The transition may be difficult at first, but you will come out a stronger and better person because of it.
This relates to our group’s topic of depression in that the protagonist dealt with a form of depression when he was made fun of by his peers at both the reservation and the all-white school. He suffered greatly but was able to pull himself up out of the depression and persevere.