Too much reality?

Posted: November 27, 2012 in pOstEd WeEkLY

This week we are reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, interested? Let me tell you, I feel really connected to this novel, not because I live on a Reservation or am even Indian, but the writing is undeniably lush. Alexie takes us on a journey through his everyday thoughts, experiences, mishaps, and sorrows and it’s absolutely great! I suppose I should really only discuss up to where I was supposed to read (page 100 or so)….even though I couldn’t put the novel down and am almost done :/

Spokane gathering, Spokane Indian Reservation, Washington, ca. 1898

In regards to relating this novel to Global Health and Human Rights, there’s definitely much more of a Human Rights tie with Alexie and the reservation lifestyle. The main example, if not the most dominating narrative, is that of poverty in the Wellpinit area. Alexie give a multitude of examples ranging from a comparison between his physical self and symbolism of his attire to that of the wealthier White young adults of Reardan — the High School in which he makes the choice to transfer –to the lack of gas money his parents have resulting in him walking over 20 miles to or from school. Below are some excerpts to overshadow the narrative of poverty:

“You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor.” (p13)

“Yep, so that means I was staring at a geometry book that was at least thirty years older than I was [after discovering his mother’s name in his text book]…My school and my tribe are so poor and sad that we have to study from the same dan books our parents studied from.” (p31)

click on Sherman to read his interview with Time Mag.

Although there are many repeating narratives in Alexie’s novel, such as Addiction and First World Problems (alcoholism, bolemia, etc), inefficiency in enforcement of the Law against abuse and DWI, and he even touches upon the murder of culture when his Geometry teacher confides in him (a 14 year old boy) that he and others were hired to Kill Indians, something along ‘kill the Indian to save the child’.

In my mind, the most evident anthropological concept read over and over in Alexie’s work is that of Othering, making him the Other when he is on the Rez. because of his physical appearance. Him becoming Other once he attends Reardan, both a social outcast by White students but also hated by kids on the Rez. — even adults who beat him for being a traitor in attending a White school. The concept of Othering is seen in nearly every single culture, within social cliques, and most of all social structure. There is even a reminiscent quality of exoticism of the Native Americans in which people are mesmerized and stunned by the rich cultural heritage that many tribes have to offer.

Interested? Journal of Globalization and Development:  Impact of Political Reservations in West Bengal Local Governments on Anti-Poverty Targeting

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