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le 27 juillet 2010
Sherman Alexie is a genius. It's as simple as that.
This wonderfully funny, serious and moving book is a roman a clef of Alexie's life. His protagonist, Arnold Jr. is some 25 years younger than his real counterpart. The story is set in the 2006-2007 school year. Alexie's character, Arnold Jr. was born on November 5, 1992, the same day his best friend Rowdy was born. The two couldn't be more different, yet they form a rock solid bond.
Arnold's sister Mary, some several years his senior leaves the reservation to get married. She moves to Flattop Montana where she pursues her dream, which is to write a Native love story. Prior to her marriage, she had been living in the family basement, rarely venturing out.
Arnold, on the other hand ventures far and beyond the "rez," as the reservation is called. He and Rowdy share a love for comics and it is the clever drawings in this book that make it all the more endearing and humorous. Arnold, born with water on the brain (hydrocephalus) suffered from seizures the first 7 years of his life. He also wore Buddy Holly style glasses, which further emphasize the differences he feels in himself when compared to his peers.
Rowdy, however, treats Arnold like an equal. They exact revenge on adult triplets who have bullied and harassed them. They share laughs, tears and even guy bonding over similar interests. That is, until Arnold decides to leave the reservation school of Wellpinit for Reardan, the school in town. His decision is prompted by his anger at the old materials in Wellpinit and by a teacher who steps up to the plate for him after he gets an in-your-face idea of how disaffected Arnold really is.
Rowdy and some of the other rez residents call Arnold an "apple," (red on the outside, white on the inside) and brand him a turncoat for leaving the reservation school. Reardon is some 22 miles away, so Arnold is at the mercy of whoever is able to drive him there. Once there, he discovers a different code of social conduct among his peers and even makes some friends. His father's best friend, a delightful man named Eugene sometimes chauffers him on his "iron pony," a classic 1946 motorcycle. At Reardan Arnold can spread his falcon wings as opposed to beating them in one place. He can soar academically and with the school basketball team. While there, he learns that he can take his heritage wherever he is; he is not a turncoat and that his heritage is part of his identity and his moving beyond the place where he grew up gives him a chance to offer cultural sharing. In turn, people who are unfamiliar with reservation life share in turn. Arnold, the boy born with water on the brain and who once suffered from seizures and whose father drinks too much can stand tall on the reservation and beyond. He has soared like a falcon.
This is an excellent book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.