A Voice Needing a Larger Audience
This novel (uniquely told in the first-person in the form of a diary interspersed with cartoon drawings) follows the story of Arnold Spirit Jr., a fourteen-year-old boy from the Spokane Indian reservation who decides to move to an all-white public high school when he realizes that his school on the reservation — along with the people living there — is too impoverished to help him succeed in life.
This story has often been banned from schools or challenged due to its explicit portrayals of sex, poverty and race. However, though it is a harrowing tale for anyone of any age, gender or race to read, I am saddened by the fact that it has had such limited reach in public schools, especially to the age demographic characterized in this book.
It is a story that packs a wallop of a punch, and it is unapologetically honest about what life can really be like for a large majority of people living in the United States. This particular story shines a light on what it truly is like to be a Native American living on a federal reservation: underfunded, forgotten, betrayed.
This in-your-face discussion of what it is to be poor, of the glaring disparities that exist between races (which often manifests itself most disparagingly in the forms of money and opportunity for upward mobility) and of what it is to be a sexually-charged teenager are all topics that we should be talking about more openly. Because the narrative here is based on truth.
There is so much to glean from this story, whether you’re a teenager or an adult because it shines an honest light on what it is like to be a minority in America and because it discusses critical issues and their central conflicts as they relate to identity, race, poverty, friendship and the current state of the public education system in the United States.
Read this book. Share it with others. Discuss it with people who come from similar backgrounds to you.
But most importantly, discuss this book (and any other books like it) with people who come from vastly different backgrounds to yours, and try to use those discussions to push for positive change in the world, however small it may seem. Changes that would create a bit more equity and a bit more compassion in an often unfair and compassionless world.