Excerpt of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
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Those seizures can damage your brain.
But the thing is, I was having those seizures because I already had brain damage, so I was reopening wounds each time I seized.
Yep, whenever I had a seizure, I was damaging my damage.
I havent had a seizure in seven years, but the doctors tell me that I am susceptible to seizure activity.
Isnt that one of the worst phrases youve ever heard?
Susceptible to seizure activity.
Doesnt that just roll off the tongue like poetry?
I also had a stutter and a lisp. Or maybe I should say I had a st-st-st-st-stutter and a lissssssssththththp.
You wouldnt think there is anything life threatening about speech impediments, but let me tell you, there is nothing more dangerous than being a kid with a stutter and a lisp.
A five-year-old is cute when he lisps and stutters. Heck, most of the big-time kid actors stuttered and lisped their way to stardom.
And, jeez, youre still fairly cute when youre a stuttering and lisping six-, seven-, and eight-year-old, but its all over when you turn nine and ten.
After that, your stutter and lisp turn you into a retard.
And if youre fourteen years old, like me, and youre still stuttering and lisping, then you become the biggest retard in the world.
Everybody on the rez calls me a retard about twice a day. They call me retard when they are pantsing me or stuffing my head in the toilet or just smacking me upside the head.
Im not even writing down this story the way I actually talk, because Id have to fill it with stutters and lisps, and then youd be wondering why youre reading a story written by such a retard.
Do you know what happens to retards on the rez?
We get beat up.
At least once a month.
Yep, I belong to the Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club.
Sure I want to go outside. Every kid wants to go outside. But it is safer to stay at home. So I mostly hang out alone in my bedroom and read books and draw cartoons.
Heres one of me:
I draw all the time.
I draw cartoons of my mother and father; my sister and grand-mother; my best friend, Rowdy; and everybody else on the rez.
I draw because words are too unpredictable.
I draw because words are too limited.
If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning.
But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it.
If I draw a cartoon of a flower, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, Thats a flower.
So I draw because I want to talk to the world. And I want the world to pay attention to me. I feel important with a pen in my hand. I feel like I might grow up to be somebody important. An artist. Maybe a famous artist. Maybe a rich artist.
Thats the only way I can become rich and famous.
Just take a look at the world. Almost all of the rich and famous brown people are artists. Theyre singers and actors and writers and dancers and directors and poets.
So I draw because I feel like it might be my only real chance to escape the reservation.
I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.
WHY CHICKEN MEANS SO MUCH TO ME
Okay, so now you know that Im a cartoonist. And I think Im pretty good at it, too. But no matter how good I am, my cartoons will never take the place of food or money. I wish I could draw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a fist full of twenty dollar bills, or perform some magic trick and make it real. But I cant do that. Nobody can do that, not even the hungriest magician in the world.
Excerpted from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian © Copyright 2007 by Sherman Alexie. Reprinted with permission by Little, Brown for Young Readers, Inc. All rights reserved.