Author: Sherman Alexie
What To Read Next: American Born Chinese by Gene Leun Yang, Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
This bestseller covers issues that, unfortunately, don't see enough discussion in pop culture: the racism that Native Americans regularly face; the tenuous relationships between reservations and white communities; and the alcoholism and poverty that too often afflicts the Native American community.
The novel's protagonist, Arnold, is an intelligent Native American who suffered from water in the brain when he was born, which, along with the surgery to drain his spinal cord, left him with physical disabilities. After being bullied on the reservation, he's sent to an all-white high school, where he meets a girl, a new friend, and finds out that nothing is easy.
If it sounds like a bummer, stick with us. This novel is about hope. Arnold's parents are alcoholics, his sister can't leave her mobile home, he only has one friend and he's abused by his father. Yet despite all that, Arnold has a steadfast, if not frustrating for the reader, belief that his circumstances can change.