by Sue Corbett Sep 14, 2017 for Publishers Weekly
A decade after its original release, Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award winner, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown) is being reissued in a special anniversary edition, with 70-plus pages of bonus material including a new introduction from Jacqueline Woodson, family photographs, and—most intriguing—an excerpt from Alexie’s long-awaited sequel, Rowdy, Rowdy, Rowdy.
The title alone telegraphs the contents: this is a story that covers the same time period in Part-Time Indian told from the perspective of Arnold Spirit, Jr.’s best friend, Rowdy Polatkin, who stayed on the reservation when Arnold left for a better education at a predominantly white school 22 miles away. It begins, “Everybody loves a meteor, but hardly anybody cares about a meteorite.”
“The real surprise, from the beginning, is how much love there has been for Rowdy. He’s nearly as popular among readers as Junior is,” Alexie said. “I never intended to make him a hero or lovable and I’ve never written a true sequel. I’ve written six or seven different [versions], none of which I have even shown to Alvina [Ling, his editor]. It’s a deadly combination of arrogance and self-hatred; nothing is good enough.”
Now finishing the job will be tinged with deep sadness, too, because Alexie reveals in the new edition’s afterword that the childhood friend on whom the Rowdy character is based died last December in a car accident in rural Washington State. Randy J. Peone was 49.
“I had not spoken to Randy in many years,” Alexie writes in the afterword. “But I was instantly transported back in time, and I wept and wailed like a twelve-year-old boy whose best friend had just died.”
Earlier this year, Alexie had to cancel a portion of a tour promoting his new memoir to deal with recurring grief over the death of its subject—his mother Lillian Alexie, who died in 2015. “My analogy is that I pulled off the freeway when I was sleepy and got a motel room. I averted crisis, which is a shocking change of pattern for me,” said Alexie, who has been open in the past about his struggles with depression. “I’ve gotten a lot of letters from psychologists and therapists about how much my public decision to stop has affected them and their clients. I think perhaps in this year of so much public dishonesty, a little bit of public honesty was quite liberating for people. It definitely was for me.”
Alexie does plan to tour this fall in support of the new edition of Part-Time Indian…