Friday, September 26, 2008

What a story

Thursday evening we went to see a local Seattle author, tell his story. A couple of weeks ago, BB came home with book entitled “The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian.” (Indian as in a Native American, not a person from India. I will continue to use the word Indian throughout because that is what the author called himself and his tribesman. I have recently had trouble figuring out what the proper way of calling the people who first inhabited this land is. I had been trying to force Indian out of my vocabulary and only say Native American until I read two books by Native Americans in which they only referred to themselves as Indians. Is it one of those examples of the people in a particular group being allowed to use the term when outsiders may not? I don’t know the answer.) The Redmond Library was hosting an event for a local author by the name of Sherman Alexie. The plan was we would all read his book and see him speak. The book was hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The only complaint I have of the book is that it was too quick a read. I wanted more. Sometimes I hate to see a book end, because that means in a way I have lost my companion. I don’t have it too look forward to any longer.
He spoke directly to his audience in the book about his life with honesty and humor. The book is mostly autobiographical, with a few fictionalized sections. His character’s name is Arnold in the white world, but Junior on the reservation. And poor Arnold did not have it easy. Besides that he was abjectly poor with a drunk as a father and his tribe was dying of alcoholism, he had his own physical issues. His head, or globe as many of his peers nicknamed it, was abnormally large, especially as a child because of the disease known to many as water on the brain, medically known as hydrocephalus. This disease brought about seizures, which caused minor brain damage and some physical impairments. Also for some unknown reason, he had 10 more teeth than the average person. The normal person has 32 teeth; he had 42 teeth. And he loved books, any book he could get his hands on. His grandmother spoke English well, but didn’t read it well, but wanted to support his voracious reading habit. She would buy him any book with an Indian on the cover, which often times ended up being a romance novel. So he had a gianormous head, a skinny stick figure body, too many teeth, and was a book worm who wanted and needed more than the reservation could offer him. He decided if he is going to succeed in this world, he had to get off the reservation, and his only option in the end was to go to the whitest and most racist school in the area. I won’t give you the entire book report so I will stop there. But my favorite part of the book is that he included cartoons to tell his story, which I felt help describe his thoughts and feelings even further than the mere words. It made me wish I had a talent in drawing, but alas, I don’t. (click on the photos, you can read the writing)
It is interesting that the things we found so painful in our youth, so hilarious later in life. I have a great respect for people who can look back at those awkward and distressing years and reflect honestly and with humor. I only hope that one day I will be able to do the same.
The speech was free and in a nice size auditorium which was filled to the brim with the young and the old. An entire bus of elderly people from a retirement home came to hear him. We didn’t realize that until later, but as we walked into the auditorium, Kyle commented that something smelled of mothballs. I didn’t notice the mothball smell but I find that smell nostalgic. I am reminded of my great grandma and the many days we spent playing games at her house until she was not able to live on her own after the age of 97. But I digress.
He was just as funny to listen to as to read. One statement he said, I found thought provoking. Although he was half-joking, he said that he was jealous of females and how their affectionate behavior is acceptable. After the age of 9, it is not ok for boys to hold hands without being gay, but girls can do it their entire lives. He wanted to be able to show his affection with his male friends outside of the acceptable handshake. And it is true, but I never thought of guys as being left out before now. That is one thing that I truly love about being a girl is that I can be affectionate with my friends. I love that girls can hold hands, hug freely and rest their heads on each other’s shoulders. I miss that now that I am married and older. We don’t necessarily need that affection as much when we have husbands or partners, and that element is lost sometimes. I continuously go on tangents during this post, don’t I? Maybe it is because I didn’t have a clear understanding of what I really wanted to say in this post. I only knew that something about this man touched me, and I wanted to share a piece of it with you. So, although I can’t seem to keep my train of thought on a clear cut path, I hope you can take something from this. And if you have the time, do read the book. It is a wonderful read.
p.s. You still have time to write a caption for the previous post. I will decide on the winner sometime next week.

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