Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thumbs Up!

I get so wound up in reading for work, reading and marking essays, reading committee stuff, reading to prep classes, reading criticism and history, that I sometimes forget what good fun reading novels is. At some point in the not too distant past, I heard and NPR spot on Sherman Alexie's new young adult book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and at the time, I thought about getting it for a young relative. Then the other day, I went with a friend to Frontiers, the big box bookstore (and the only non-Christian focused bookstore in town, other than the little box bookstore in the mall), and remembered to get it.

But I couldn't just give a kid a book I hadn't read, right? I mean, I have to make sure it's a good one and such, you know?

So I thought I'd read for a few minutes in bed before sleeping. A couple hours later, I finished. Yeah, it's that good. I was tired, but it didn't matter because the book kept me happily reading away, laughing some, crying some (because I'm a serious book whuss), and thoroughly enjoying.

I think it's a little old for the kid I had in mind yet, maybe in, say, two years. On the other hand, I'm not much of a judge of children's maturity. I'm trying to think of what I was reading at his age, and trying to think what I would have made of the book. So I'm thinking that I'll give it to his Mom to read (because she reads lots and we trade books around) and she can pass it along to him when she thinks he'll get more out of it.

On the other hand, it's sort of fun to imagine the kid asking Dad what "masturbate" means, isn't it? Do they cover masturbation in sex-ed these days? When I had sex-ed at age ten or so, they basically separated us in the single-gender groups, and showed the girls a film about getting our period, a film which didn't mention useful knowledge about tampons or the pill, but had hokey cartoons of a HUGE uterus filling with blood which then poured out. And refilled, and poured again. (Seriously, I thought a uterus was about the size of a medium-large butternut squash* for ages; not god knows it felt that size when I got cramps!) Anyway, they didn't mention masturbation at all, so far as I recall, though good masturbation lessons might have kept some of us out of other sorts of trouble a while longer.

Anyway, Alexie's book is in the young adults section in the bookstore, but I think it's more an adult book with a young adult character that kids might like, too. Seriously, if you're an adult with a sense of humor and an interest in a good book, you should read this one. I'll be passing this one around to some friends, for sure.

ps. I'm always up for good book suggestions, and the authors don't even have to have been dead for 300+ years!

*I tried to come up with other things to compare it to in size: a football just seemed wrong, though about the right size, and confusing because it could also mean what folks in the US call a soccer ball. So in looking for an object the right size, I found myself thinking purely in sort of food or sports things.


  1. I can just imagine that cartoon uterus filling up with blood - what I'd give to see those old films again!

  2. How old is the kid, and then, mature/literary-minded?

  3. TBTAM, I think I'd be just as scared to see those films now! They really were sort of hateful about femaleness.

    MSILF, The kid is 11 years old, and I think about on track maturity wise, though I'm no expert. He loves to read.

    The book talks about masturbation, alcoholism, death, racism, homophobia in concrete, thoughtful ways. The narrator's about 14, and I'm thinking this kid will be a bit more ready for those subjects in 2 years. I think once he's hit puberty himself, masturbation will be something he understands. And I think those 2 years make a world of difference in thinking about the other issues.

  4. Speaking of "young adult" fiction, I've been out of the States for a year and was pleasantly shocked to to how big and how prominently featured and how interesting the YA section was in the closest Borders. Harry Potter effect in part, as there was a lot of actually good fantasy, but also seeing the marketing of adol lad and chick lit happening, which I'm not as excited about. But what a difference from when I avoided that section at all costs when I was that age (eons ago). When did this happen? Really in the last year?