Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gabby (2011): Mark Kelly,Gabrielle Giffords & Jeffrey Zaslow

Gabby is an inspirational memoir written by Captain Mark Kelly and United States Congress Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Kelly describes the aftermath of the January 8, 2010 shooting of Giffords in Tucson, AZ and his final trip into space as commander of the space shuttle, Endeavor. The author gives details of Giffords miraculous recovery and her struggle to regain her ability to speak. He explains that she is able to comprehend 99% of what is spoken but is still at work on her ability to communicate her thoughts and feelings. The book also depicts Kelly’s adventures in space and his complicated work as an astronaut. He shares interesting details regarding life as the commander of the Endeavor shuttle. As a reader, I was immediately engaged in the events surrounding Ms. Giffords horrific shooting and her brave recovery. As a twenty-five year officer in the U.S. Navy and astronaut, Kelly is methodical and precise in his descriptions. There is a tinge of anger regarding Sarah Palin and her politics and the response of NASA administrators regarding the public opinion of Kelly’s decision to return to space after the attack. In my reading, I was struck by the extreme patriotism and work ethic displayed by both Kelly and Giffords. I was also interested in reading about their unconventional marriage. Due to their demanding careers, the spouses kept homes in separate cities and spent much time apart. The overall message is one of love, resilience, and Ms. Giffords amazing capacity to heal after such a traumatic event. In a culture that can sometimes seem troubling, this book demonstrates the beauty of two people who strive to make the world a better place through perseverance. Gabby perpetuates the theme that good will eventually win over evil and that strength in character is a still a noble calling.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007): Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007): Sherman Alexie

This fictional book for adolescent readers was penned by Sherman Alexie as a semi-autobiographical tale of life on the Spokane Indian Reservation in eastern Washington State. The narrator is Arnold Spirit, Jr. or “Junior” as he is known on the rez. As an infant, Junior had hydrocephalus or “water on the brain” resulting in seizures and an enlarged head. These abnormalities make Junior an outcast and the brunt of jokes and bullying. Life on the rez is bleak, Junior’s father and many adults are addicted to alcohol and Junior attends many funerals which are usually alcohol related. Junior is smart perhaps due to his mother’s influence. She is intelligent and is a reader but is still affected by the negative perplexities of the reservation. Some of the main characters in the book include Junior’s best friend, Rowdy, a tough young man routinely beaten by his father. Mary Spirit is Junior’s sister and valiantly attempts to break free from her home life. Junior (like Alexie) decides to leave the rez and attend the all white high school in nearby Reardon, WA. The book chronicles Junior’s adventures at Reardon such as hitchhiking to school, befriending beautiful Penelope and brilliant Gordy, and becoming an unlikely star on the high school basketball team. Junior is a witty and engaging storyteller and this reader was laughing out loud as I read this unique piece of literature.

The novel deals with sensitive issues in a humorous tone and contains comical cartoons throughout which will appeal to both juvenile and adult readers. The book also has language and mature themes which resulted in it being banned in three states. Ironically, the novel was named the 2007 Young People’s Literature winner for the National Book Award. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an engaging, humorous, and thought provoking read about a young man and his culture. Sherman Alexie is also a filmmaker (Smoke Signals, 1998), poet, and writer of short stories (What You Pawn, I Will Redeem, 2003).

You can see more of the work of this brilliant author at: