May Book Club Review

This month we completed our five-part challenge of 2016 by reading a book that has been banned. We read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.

Overall, everyone in the book club seemed to really like this book. We all agreed that it was unfortunate that this book had been banned and it really shouldn’t have been.

What really got me confused was the fact that it was banned because it spoke about masturbation. I get it, some mothers and fathers out there didn’t want their children to have access to a book that talks about masturbation. What I don’t get is the fact that masturbation wasn’t really a subject matter in the book. I mean it was hardly mentioned at all, only in passing. I think it was meant to reflect the true thoughts of a young man, the protagonist of the story. I don’t feel it was done in untasteful or inappropriate manner at all. It felt true to the story and the boy’s voice, allowing the character to seem real.

So why was it banned if it hardly even mentions the subject?

Your guess is as good as mine.

My guess: People with too much time on their hands wanting to control what others can and can’t have access too. (I am 99% sure this is an accurate guess.)

What was really compelling about this novel was the boy’s coming of age story about his life on the Indian reservation. This book does delve into some deep aspects about life, poverty, alcoholism, and family. That is the real gem about this book, it is real to everyday life.

It is told in an often funny tone with art depections. The art in this book was so much fun and felt so real to the things my friends and I use to draw as adolescents. The use of art as an expression for the boy in this book gave me a new appreciation for the book as a whole.

I gave this book a rating of 4 of 5 stars. I would highly recommend to middle-school readers up to adult. There is a lot to get out of this book from any age.

 

 

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April Book Club Review

Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys by Billy Crystal.
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book description:

Hilarious and heartfelt observations on aging from one of America’s favorite comedians as he turns 65, and a look back at a remarkable career

Billy Crystal is turning 65, and he’s not happy about it. With his trademark wit and heart, he outlines the absurdities and challenges that come with growing old, from insomnia to memory loss to leaving dinners with half your meal on your shirt. In humorous chapters like “Buying the Plot” and “Nodding Off,” Crystal not only catalogues his physical gripes, but offers a road map to his 77 million fellow baby boomers who are arriving at this milestone age with him. He also looks back at the most powerful and memorable moments of his long and storied life, from entertaining his relatives as a kid in Long Beach, Long Island, his years doing stand-up in the Village, up through his legendary stint at Saturday Night Live, When Harry Met Sally, and his long run as host of the Academy Awards. Readers get a front-row seat to his one-day career with the New York Yankees (he was the first player to ever “test positive for Maalox”), his love affair with Sophia Loren, and his enduring friendships with several of his idols, including Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali. He lends a light touch to more serious topics like religion (“the aging friends I know have turned to the Holy Trinity: Advil, bourbon, and Prozac”), grandparenting, and, of course, dentistry. As wise and poignant as they are funny, Crystal’s reflections are an unforgettable look at an extraordinary life well lived.

 

My book club and I read this book as part of our 2016 challenge to read an autobiography.  At first glance I was not sure what I would think about it. I have never been a huge fan of Billy Crystal, but there are a few films he is in that I have enjoyed over the years. His comedy style has always been a little off for my taste. I have always been more of a Jerry Seinfeld or Steve Martin fan (sorry Billy!)

The novel itself is wonderfully executed. The story alternates between his thoughts on aging as he is now 65 and his life story. I found it interesting to learn so many facts about his role film industry. On the other hand his life experiences involving baseball and his many friendships with baseball legends was less interesting but not at all less of an experience as a reader. I am not a sports fan so it was hard for me to identify with his passion for it.

The voice of the novel was amazing. Billy’s true voice spoke off the pages to me the entire time. Rarely have I read an autobiography where I felt so convinced that I was having an intimate conversation with the writer. That is great writing and execution. For interest and likability I would rate it a solid 3 stars. For execution and voice I am adding a star for a rating of 4 stars.

On a side note, I am disappointed I didn’t order this on Audio CD as I just saw that it won 2 awards for best audiobook. I listen to audiobooks all the time and found it somewhat ironic that I didn’t think to get it on audio. The additional plus would have been the performance of Billy reading the book. Live and learn.