American Born Chinese

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In his graphic young adult novel, American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang tells three unique stories with three unique protagonists but each story shares a single message: Be yourself. To make his point crystal clear, Yang brings together various elements, including illustrations, to highlight the idea of wanting to become someone you’re not just for the sake of fitting in.

The first story is about the Monkey King who was “a deity in his own right” and “monkeys from the four corners of the world flocked to him” but when he is refused admission to a dinner party outside his kingdom for not wearing shoes (a human trait), he loses his mind, kills everyone at the party and decides he no longer wants to be a monkey. Angry and embarrassed, he goes to great lengths to become the Great Sage Equal of Heaven instead. As the story unfolds, as punishment for what he did, the Monkey King is inevitably banished by Tze-Yo-Tzuh, creator of all existence, and forced to live under a mountain of rock. He eventually realizes the only way to free himself from his self-induced prison is to embrace who he is and accept being a monkey.

The second story is about Jin Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants, who just wants to fit in and is willing to go to great lengths to do so. Even as a young boy, when the herbalist’s wife asks him what he wants to be when he grows up, he says he wants to be a Transformer, a kid’s toy that is symbolic to the story. The old woman replies, “It’s easy to become anything you wish so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.” When Jin enters middle school and notices the cute blond, Amelia Harris, from that point on Jin transforms himself hoping she’ll fall in love with him. He even dyes and perms his hair to look more like Amelia’s (platonic) male friend in an attempt to win her over. That’s ironic not only because Amelia and the boy were just friends but later the boy makes it clear that he looks down on Jin when he asks him to stop dating Amelia for the sake of her reputation. Basically Jin started out disliking himself and being ashamed of his culture and he transformed himself into someone who also disliked him and his culture.

The third story brings the other two stories together. It features a white kid named Danny and his Chinese “cousin” Chin-Kee. Not only is Chin-Kee’s name a racist slang term but Chin-Kee, the character, is the epitome of every Chinese stereotype. Danny is embarrassed of Chin-Kee and tries to get rid of him but Chin-Kee refuses to leave and turns out to be stronger physically and spiritually. As this story progresses, we learn that Danny is the transformed version of Jin Wang from story #2 and we learn that Chin-Kee is the Monkey King from story #1. We also learn that Jin Wang’s friend Wei-Chen is in fact the Monkey King’s son being tested in human form. On page 217, the Monkey King even gives his son a Transformer toy and says “Let it remind you of who you are.” As this tale progresses Wei-Chen turns his back on his culture, too. And in the end it becomes Jin Wan’s responsibility to find Wei-Chen so each can embrace who they really are.

American Born Chinese is an insightful story about discrimination and transformation. It teaches us that one of the worst forms of discrimination is when we discriminate against ourselves.

In American Born Chinese, Yang uses pictures to get his points across to the reader. With so many confusing spiritual and religious themes and unfamiliar multicultural perspectives, without pictures many young readers may have found themselves confused. The pictures help the reader better understand the content of the story and, in turn, reinforces the author’s messages.

On page 93 of Writing & Selling the YA Novel, K.L. Going writes: “You’ll want to choose the very best descriptions so your setting seems real and has the most impact possible… settings can shape our stories and create a tone that helps an author achieve his or her goals.”

In this case, graphic novelists have the advantage because rather than finding the best descriptions in the hopes that readers will see what authors want them to see, the graphic novelist can literally draw the picture he or she wants the reader to see instead.

There’s truth to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” By adding visuals, graphic novels open new possibilities in storytelling. If a writer is able to offer words with illustrations, his or her points and messages are far less likely to be misconstrued or missed altogether.

While I think Yang was successful in general with his graphic novel, in some ways I think the pictures held him back. There were moments when the illustrations were so over the top that some readers may miss a message because they’re busy laughing. Or because they are hyper-focused on one element they may miss the surrounding elements. There were also moments when the characters were so cartoonish that it was challenging at times to take them seriously.

Personally, I struggled to get through this book. In fact, I lost count of how many times I put it down and procrastinated finishing it. It gave me the same feeling of exhaustion I get when I watch a movie with subtitles. Maybe it was all the multitasking that made reading American Born Chinese feel more like work than art to me. Or maybe it was the simple fact that as an active reader one of my favorite things about reading is picturing the story in my mind. There were times when I felt like the images were being forced down my throat and other times when I felt like I had to study every picture to fully understand the story.

Still I can’t imagine this book without the illustrations and even though they weren’t exactly my cup of tea, I think they served a valuable purpose. From an author’s POV, what a great way to “show” rather than “tell” our stories while underlining the points we are trying to make. That said; I can see why so many people, and young adults in particular, enjoy reading them. Pictures are fun and illustrations are a great way to connect with those young adults who dislike books or those who struggle with reading. In this way, graphic novels are able to reach people which other novels cannot. And if they spark a love for reading, then graphic novels are okay in my book!

Works Cited:

Going, K.L. Writing & Selling the YA Novel. Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books. 2008. Print.

Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. New York: Square Fish. 2006. Print.

The Hunger Games: YA Dystopian Science Fiction

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Today’s young adults are under so many pressures that I think they must often feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Utopian and dystopian YA literature is popular because it offers its readers an incomparable element of escapism from their everyday lives. While the stories themselves are imaginative and the settings are a stretch from reality as we know it, these stories and their young protagonists tend to be both relatable and inspiring. They often feature “normal” teen characters who have realistic problems but who fight to overcome extraordinary obstacles and sometimes even end up saving the world.

Utopia and dystopia are opposites. Utopian novels are set in paradise-like societies, or utopias, where everything seems ideal, carefree and perfect, while dystopian novels are often set in hostile, unappealing, scary and degraded societies, or dystopias. Both utopian and dystopian societies explore social and political structures and are commonly featured in science fiction.

The Hunger Games is dystopian science fiction, though it contains both dystopian and utopian elements. However, while the Capitol could be seen as a utopia, its primary function in the novel is that of contrast to the districts, which are clearly dystopian, and to the painful, humiliating and degrading essence of the games. So the dystopian elements outweigh the utopian elements. The dystopian qualities of the districts include the dehumanization and suppression of the citizens ruled by a controlling government that degrades and punishes its people. Each district performs a specific function that benefits the Capitol but they are kept segregated and are unable to share their talents and resources with other districts. This ensures that no one district can excel. Even within the districts, the government promotes hatred, fear and lack of trust through segregation. On page 14, Katniss says: “It’s to the Capitol’s advantage to have us divided amongst ourselves.” On page 203, she wonders if the Gamemakers are censoring their conversations because “they don’t want people in different districts to know about one another.” The districts are fenced in like prisons and the citizens are forced to live in impoverished, third worldly conditions where they deal with starvation, public whippings and limited resources. Finally, the Reaping itself—an event in which the government selects children from a public lottery, takes them away from their families and kills them for entertainment—is dystopian.

A successful Sci-Fi or Fantasy will bend and stretch our imagination without breaking it entirely. This so-called “suspension of disbelief” is our willingness to suspend what we know to be true in order to enjoy a work of fiction. Still, science fiction and fantasy are very different and as such they require different degrees of suspended disbelief. In science fiction we are willing to believe an alternate or futuristic reality based on things we know to be true in our current reality. For example, it’s easy enough for us to believe a science fiction story in which people live on Mars someday simply because we already have space travel. On the other hand, fantasies like Twilight or Lord of the Rings, for examples, are not based in reality and require a larger leap of faith.

The Hunger Games is science fiction primarily because of its many plausible futuristic elements, including: flaming outfits, instant hair dryers, tracker jackers, hovercrafts, teleporting devices, computer-controlled illusions, temperature and weather controlled environments, magic burn medicines and robotic dogs. Collins creates a believable world by creating things that we think could possibly happen in the future based on what we know now about our own world. Plus, when it comes to the future, we tend to be open-minded about the many scientific and technological possibilities so things like temperature controlled atmospheres, hovercrafts and robotic dogs aren’t so hard to imagine. Also, Collins is consistent with the elements she creates. On page 82 of Writing & Selling the YA Novel, K.L. Going says: “Be consistent. Whatever the rules of your world are, stay within them. Don’t change anything for your own convenience.” Collins makes the rules and sticks to them. For example, when the Gamemakers announced the surprising change in their rules that would’ve allowed Katniss and Peeta to win together, it seemed convenient and out of character. If it had simply ended there, no one would’ve bought it.

On page 96, Going writes: “It’s also important to give your imaginary time period a multidimensional quality, alluding to what has come before and what might be in store in the future.” The “present” world Collins creates hovers in between a past that through Katniss’ memories we know enough about to visualize and accept and a future we can easily make rational assumptions about based on what we know about the “present” world and what happens to the characters in the story. We know that even though Katniss and Peeta beat the system and won the games, the games themselves will continue. On page 378, Katniss says, “It’s the Capitol’s way of reminding people that the Hunger Games never really go away. We’ll be given a lot of useless plaques, and everyone will have to pretend they love us.”

Collins is also consistent with the way she develops characterization. She begins with our main character Katniss since everything we see in the novel will be through Katniss’ eyes. We immediately get to know Katniss mostly through her own actions—we learn about her physical strength and warrior mentality through her hunting and we learn what kind of person she is when she takes her sister’s place in the Reaping. Voila! She is multidimensional because she kills but she also loves. On page 60 of Writing & Selling the YA Novel, Going writes: “Actions also reveal character. What a person does shows us who he is—not just who he says he is.” Katniss herself is a believer that actions speak louder than words so, in turn, she uses a combination of physical descriptions and actions to set up her supporting characters. Since Katniss makes assumptions based on the appearances and actions of others, it’s easy for us to do the same. For example, she sees parallels between Prim and Rue so we do, too. This also makes it so that when she doesn’t immediately connect the dots on a particular character we can use what she’s noticed to make our own very satisfying assumptions—like how we realize Peeta has fallen for Katniss long before she realizes it herself. And based on her actions, we can tell Katniss is falling for him, too.

The Hunger Games is considered a dystopian science fiction novel because it contains many dystopian and science fiction elements. It’s successful because of the consistency and believability of those elements. Like every good science fiction novelist, Collins tells a story that stimulates without squashing our imaginations while creating settings we can easily picture and characters who we can believe in.

Works Cited:

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York. Scholastic. 2008. Print

Going, K.L. Writing & Selling the YA Novel. Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books. 2008. Print.


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Speak, written by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a story about rape, recovery and healing. Labeled a “Problem Novel” in the Young Adult genre, the book tackles uncomfortable topics and doesn’t shy away from real life problems. Speak speaks out against violence and victimization while teaching us about trauma, empowerment, patience, compassion and the power of words.

After being raped at a party by a popular senior named Andy Evans, 14-year-old freshman Melinda Sordino calls the police but is suddenly unable to verbalize what happened. When the police arrive and break up the party, Melinda is blamed for it and later ostracized by her peers. Unable to process, admit or discuss what happened to her, Melinda nearly stops speaking altogether. She withdraws at home and starts skipping school, nonverbally expressing herself through body language and self-destructive behavior, like biting her lip until it bleeds and even cutting herself. As her grades slip and her silence becomes deafening, her parents realize something is wrong but, distracted by their own problems, they accuse Melinda of acting out for attention. Because she isn’t getting the support or help she needs, Melinda’s depression deepens.

I found Melinda’s story to be a realistic depiction of a young girl’s journey from rape to recovery. While the novel touches on other young adult issues, like fitting in, popularity, finding one’s identity, grades, status and relationships, those issues were overshadowed by the trauma and recovery themes—and rightfully so. After all, this mirrors what would actually happen in real life. While life keeps on moving and the world keeps spinning, anyone who has survived a tragedy or trauma knows that the life of the victim becomes saturated by those experiences.

On page 52 of Writing & Selling the YA Novel, K.L. Going says: “In Nancy Lamb’s The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, she writes: ‘What happens to characters—how they suffer and celebrate, how they meet challenges, overcome obstacles and find redemption—is the heart and soul and spirit of story.’” Going continues: “Our personalities reveal themselves through our speech, actions and body language… Watching what a character does or does not do can reveal what she wants and help create a fuller sense of who she is both physically and emotionally. This is especially true when we reveal the reasons behind her actions.”

Melinda wanted desperately for this experience to somehow go away and her brain’s defense mechanism was to try to repress the rape. She prayed that if she didn’t speak about it, then it would magically disappear. This, too, is common in real life traumas and tragedies.

I imagine some readers will say that Melinda should have immediately spoken up and sought justice against her attacker, and I admit I had those thoughts, too. But then I tried to put myself in Melinda’s shoes. Rape is nearly impossible to process as an adult, but Melinda is a 14-year-old girl and trying to process something this traumatic at such a young age is both scary and challenging beyond words. Not only was Melinda raped, but this was also her first sexual experience. And she said it herself—she wasn’t even scheduled to learn about sex until her junior year. How can we expect her to feel comfortable speaking about something that no one has taken the time to discuss with her? Add that to the fact that sex and rape are often considered taboo topics. Victims of rape often feel ashamed and even responsible for what happened to them.

This week’s lecture states: “The real-lives of teens do not always have to be dramatic. A story of a teen driven to exhaustion by pressures of getting into the right college may connect more than stories about teens in drugs or gangs. The essence of the problem is only that it is realistic.”

Rape is a tricky theme and traditionally stories about rape involve dramatic and horrific rape scenes, backlashes from victims telling their stories and horrendous public trials. Speak was nothing like that. While it was indeed dramatic in its own way, the rape scene was dealt with delicately through flashback. And rather than focusing the story on the rapist getting what he deserved, this story focused almost entirely on the victim. To me this was realistic. Real people recovering from real traumas may be too afraid, embarrassed, confused or scarred to speak up.

At school, Melinda hides in a janitor’s closet to avoid people. While this seemed silly to me at first, I couldn’t escape the closet’s obvious symbolism. On page 50, Melinda says: “I know my head isn’t screwed on straight. I want to leave, transfer, warp myself to another galaxy. I want to confess everything, hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to someone else. There is a beast inside my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, straining me. My closet is a good thing, a quiet place that helps me hold these thoughts inside my head where no one can hear them.” Similar to homosexuals who are “in the closet,” a term used to describe those who have not yet come out to their friends and family, Melinda did absolutely nothing wrong and yet she is overcome by guilt and fear and shame.

Melinda starts to find her voice through artistic expression in Mr. Freeman’s class. Meanwhile, Melinda’s ex-friend Rachel starts dating Andy Evans and Melinda fears Rachel will get raped, too. Melinda tries to warn her but Rachel ignores her and accuses her of being jealous. Still it is Melinda’s warning combined with Andy’s aggressive behavior that leads to the breakup at prom. Melinda’s urgency to help others (shown through bathroom graffiti and through her courageous warning to Rachel) along with her artistic expression slowly helps Melinda acknowledge that she was raped and empowers her to finally speak up and stand up against her attacker. Once the truth comes out, the students no longer treat Melinda like an outcast. In the end, Melinda tells her story to Mr. Freeman and the truth finally sets her free, so to speak, to move on and to heal.

There were certain things in the story which I found unrealistic or hard to believe at first but those things were explained away by the diary style in which the story was told. For example, I struggled with Melinda’s recount of the scene where Andy attacks her at school and she fights back. To me, it seemed exaggerated but then I thought it doesn’t matter what I think because these are Melinda’s memories. She is a 14-year-old girl recovering from a trauma so her point of view as well as her fears and insecurities are painted over everything. Not only do teens have a tendency to exaggerate the good and the bad but her exaggeration doesn’t make her a liar.

This class inspired me to dig out a bunch of my old diaries and journals (as I got older I started calling them journals) and I can’t believe how much I exaggerated back then. The experiences were always true but back then everything was a big deal to me and my words reflected that.

What happened to Melinda was a very big deal. That in addition to the fact that she is a teen and teens have the tendency to exaggerate, we must keep in mind that Melinda is also the victim of trauma. Some of her actions may seem odd to someone who hasn’t gone through what she’s been through but from a psychological standpoint everyone recovers differently from trauma.

I’m obviously not a psychologist but I think it’s pretty clear that Melinda could have been suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. According to the National Center for PTSD, “Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something terrible and scary that you see, hear about, or that happens to you, like combat exposure, child sexual or physical abuse, terrorist attack, sexual or physical assault, serious accidents, natural disasters… Children age 12 to 18 have symptoms similar to adults: depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or reckless behavior like substance abuse or running away.” Rape certainly qualifies as a “traumatic event.”

Prior to the rape, Melinda struck me as any typical teenage girl; she was excited, naively optimistic and enthusiastic. Just moments before the rape, she fantasized about her popularity and about having a boyfriend. But, as is the case with most victims, Melinda’s world suddenly shattered. As a direct result of being traumatized and raped, such a vibrant young girl became ashamed and afraid of everything and everyone.

Melinda’s PTSD is further revealed through her inability to speak and through her actions and body language. For example, she freezes in fear every time she sees Andy Evans. She refers to him as It because she doesn’t want to think of him as a person and since she can’t bring herself to say his name. Melinda slowly befriends her lab partner, David Petrakis, who eventually encourages her to speak up for herself. Even though she perceives David to be a good person, Melinda cannot overcome the fear that he might hurt her too so she avoids being alone with him.

There were moments when I struggled with the pace of the novel and how slowly some of the obvious elements were revealed. But then I thought about Melinda’s mother, who clearly suspected something was wrong but wasn’t sure what. Then I thought to myself: What if Melinda was my child? What if I was in the dark but somehow sensed or suspected something traumatic had happened? Would I be in denial? Maybe. Would I ignore the problem or, worse yet, would I blame my daughter for it? I hope not. It would be the hardest thing I’d ever have to do, but I would want to be patient with her and let her tell me in her own time and in her own words and on her own terms. Even though it was often hard to watch, that’s what Melinda did and this novel demanded a certain level of patience similar to what is required from a loved one.

On page 52 of Writing & Selling the YA Novel, Going writes: “If your audience invests in your characters, whether that investment comes in the form of love, hate, or morbid fascination, they’ll keep turning the pages and follow the story until the bitter end.”

Even though I found the novel to be predictable in many ways, I found it impossible to put down. I needed to know Melinda’s fate and I needed confirmation that she was going to be okay.

The lesson is in the title: Speak. There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about what happened to Melinda or anyone else, male or female, who is a victim of rape. Once Melinda found the courage to speak up against her attacker, she found her strength as well as her desire to help and protect others against having the same thing happen to them. Once she spoke up, others wanted to help her, too, and the healing process was able to begin. This novel shows the trauma and devastation of rape but it also empowers the victims to speak and teaches the rest of us to listen.

Look what popped up right outside our back door!



It’s a robin’s nest. My immediate thought was mini Incredible Hulk eggs and then a friend suggested Smurfs. I guess they are a tad more blue than green. Anyway, I googled it and it’s definitely a robin’s eggs.

Mama has been coming back and forth and papa has been hovering above squawking down at us from up in a nearby tree. They are a cute couple!

It’s things like this that make me truly love living in Iowa. While I loved and often miss living in NYC, too, things like this never happened to us there. Though I once tried to doctor a rogue pigeon back to life but that’s a different story. I hope this story has a happier ending!

This is certainly a new experience for me. How exciting!

Spring has sprung.

While we’re on the topic…

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Reading The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie made me feel empowered. Even though I’m a 37-year-old white woman and not exactly the book’s “Young Adult” AKA 12-18-year-old target audience, I could still relate to Junior. I grew up in a poor neighborhood in inner city Philadelphia. The neighborhood had (and still has) a reputation for being a “bad” part of town. Every morning I took public transportation to attend an all-girls catholic high school in an even worse part of town. While I could have gone to a nearby public high school, my parents wanted me to have what they considered a better opportunity and since I’d won a scholarship it seemed like a no brainer. I had my first multicultural experiences in that school and the relationships I formed there helped make me who I am today. Since I’m taking a YA writing class and we’re focusing on multiculturalism this week, I thought it would be fitting and fun to dig out and share something I wrote on the topic back in high school.Val's Little Flower HS Article about Diana

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Multiculturalism in YA Lit

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In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian Sherman Alexie writes about a 14-year-old Native American boy named Arnold Spirit, Jr., AKA “Junior,” who grows up poor on a Spokane Indian reservation and, after a conversation in which a reservation teacher convinces him that he must leave his heritage behind to achieve a happy and successful life, Junior decides to do just that. With his parents’ permission, he enrolls in an all-white high school off the reservation where he hopes to find hope and, in turn, struggles to fit into two separate cultures.

Even before attending Reardan High School, Junior already knew what it was like to be different. He was born physically different than those around him. He was singled out and beaten up repeatedly and even on the reservation he struggled to fit in. But he had a good family and their support gave him the strength and confidence to keep trying.

Although he set out in search of hope, hope was something Junior had had all along. We see this on page six when Junior, an amateur cartoonist, says: “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.” His cartoons help him navigate the negativity therefore they are a physical manifestation of his sense of hope.

I believe what Junior was really searching for was a place where he could finally fit in.

This week’s lecture states: “The popularity of multi-cultural literature among Young Adults is easy to see when we realize how often the problem in YA literature is finding an identity and fitting a place in the world.”

Alexie makes Junior’s experience universal to young readers by including an abundance of themes and issues which so many teens in our society experience and struggle with in their own lives; including poverty, racism, alcoholism, bullying, depression, tragedy and eating disorders. Each of these elements is enough to make anyone feel alone, different and defeated.

The book focuses primarily on poverty and through Junior’s eyes we are able to see how painful and truly devastating poverty is not only for an individual, but for an entire community. We see how being poor makes Junior feel, how poverty has squashed hope on the reservation and how alcoholism, a condition that leads to so much senseless death, is everywhere.

On page 13, Junior says: “It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that somehow you deserve to be poor. 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. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it.” This passage is so profound because while Junior is speaking specifically about poverty, “poverty” could easily be replaced with any other struggle that causes a similar circle of negativity effect. We have all struggled with something in life that caused us to feel this way.

This week’s lecture states that multicultural YA books often tell “the repressed history of the oppressed.” Not only did Junior suffer in poverty but he was shunned by the Indians on his reservation while he simultaneously struggled to fit in with the white kids at Reardan. He felt invisible and alone until he finally made a friend and then another until eventually he was popular and no longer lonely. But his popularity at Reardan didn’t solve his problems at home. Similarly, Junior’s sister managed to escape the reservation and even though she seemed to find happiness, she ended up dead because she wasn’t able to escape the alcoholism.

I think Young Adult literature is a great venue for exploring notions of race and class because books have the capacity to create empathy. When I read a good story like this one, I get so caught up in it that I feel like I’m experiencing what the characters are experiencing. Books have the ability to draw a reader in because he or she relates to the characters and they can provide an experience that a reader’s never experienced before. Therefore, a book that focuses on multiculturalism and race has the potential to encourage people who are struggling with cultural issues or racism as well as teach tolerance and expand the minds of those who aren’t.

On page 90 of Writing & Selling the YA Novel, K.L. Going writes: “Writing for teens is not about limits, it’s about possibilities. Deciding to be a YA author is not about confining yourself within the limitations of established rules; it’s about writing with the maximum integrity for an audience that is intelligent, complex, and primed to explore.”

This week’s lecture states: “Young Adult literature is a genre that is very open to the voices of many diverse cultures. The reasons for this are many and varied. The first may be that the young people of today grow up in a much less segregated community that highlights the importance of different cultural groups. So, it may be that young adults have a respect and curiosity not necessarily found in previous generations.”

Not every teen lives in a multiethnic neighborhood or attends a multicultural school. But we live in a world where our perspectives are no longer defined, confined or limited by our immediate surroundings. A bonus of living in a media driven society is that we have immediate access to everything and with a click of a mouse we can experience other cultures without ever leaving our homes. Young adults of today literally have the world at their fingertips.

That’s not to say some aren’t more or less sheltered than others. But by reading a novel with such themes as multiculturalism and race, a reader who isn’t exposed to other cultures in his or her own life is able to learn about other cultures through the characters in a story. And if the writer does his or her job well, characters should come to life in the mind of the reader. In this way, novels can create a sense of empathy. And empathy creates tolerance and empowerment.

Young adult readers who connect with Junior will share in his struggles, learn from his lessons and celebrate his triumphs. On page 79, Junior starts to feel empowered: “I was a poor kid raising money for other poor kids. It made me feel almost honorable.” The act of helping others made Junior feel good about himself. He eventually starts to believe in himself and his outlook changes. On page 138 when Coach says “You play with dignity and respect and I’ll treat you with dignity and respect, no matter what happens,” Junior realizes not everyone is against him. On page 176, Junior breaks down the root of every major problem as: “The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not.” This is significant because he no longer blames his race for his issues. And on page 186, he shows his newfound strength when he says, “I’m never going to surrender to anybody. Never, ever, ever.”

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is a book about pain, diversity, discrimination, empowerment and overcoming adversity. But more so than all of that, it’s a book about hope. In his story, Sherman Alexis shows us the importance of hope, how having it can help us overcome even our biggest problems and how not having it only causes more problems.

Works Cited:

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Hachette Book Company. New York. 2009.

Going, K.L. Writing & Selling the YA Novel. Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books. 2008. Print.