the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian

I’ve read very few books that focus on the lives or culture of Native Americas (past or present), but I would be happy to read any that are written with the humor and sincerity of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

A young adult novel, Absolutely True Diary is written from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Junior (or Arnold) Spirit.  Junior lives on the Spokane Reservation.  His family and neighbors are plagued by issues not uncommon among Native American communities, particularly poverty and alcoholism.  But Junior has hopes of escaping the circumstances that trapped his parents.  And so, with a little urging from a teacher at the reservation school, Junior decides to transfer to Reardan High School —  where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

With Junior, Alexie has created a bright and funny character with the everyday problems faced by most teenagers (getting the girl, making the basketball team), but also the heartbreaking problems that come with living on a poor reservation.   Junior channels his confusion and frustration through cartoons; the book includes hilarious drawings that, along with the genuine first-person narration, allow the reader to experience Junior’s struggles alongside of him. 

The novel is largely biographical, based on Alexie’s own experiences of growing up on a reservation and attending a white school, and it’s clear he hasn’t forgotten what it felt like to be 14.  Absolutely True Diary authentically depicts the roller coaster of emotion —  the fear, the anger, the joy, and the resilience — that comes with adolescence, and in doing so creates a funny and touching young adult novel that is both a fantastic read and an insight into a culture unfamiliar to too many of us.


~ by Molly on October 1, 2009.

One Response to “the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian”

  1. that title’s too great
    sounds like a wonderful read
    thanks for your review!

    Peace All.

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