Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4 of 5
After some prompting from a teacher, Arnold Spirit, Jr. decides to leave his reservation’s high school and enroll in the neighboring community’s all-white high school. All he really wanted was a better education, but what he gets is a sense of living in two worlds while belonging to none. His fellow Native Americans, including his best and only friend, view his transfer as a rejection and betrayal. His new white classmates are racist and largely ignore him. Through it all, Junior illustrates his account of the school year with hilarious cartoons and a candid narrative.
When I read Rebecca’s review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on her blog, The Book Lady’s Blog, I immediately added it to my ever-growing list. It sounded edgy, interesting, and unlike anything I’ve read recently. I wasn’t disappointed!
Despite the misleadingly long title, Sherman Alexie’s writing is tight, concise, and perfectly balanced in youthfulness and emotion. As a narrator, Junior was funny and endearing. I laughed aloud multiple times, particularly at his wry, self-deprecating asides. This book really did read like the journal of an intelligent teenager who is just trying to figure out where he fits in the world.
It feels almost strange to write about how funny I found this book given how sad it was. Several members of Junior’s family are serious alcoholics and their resulting poverty is heartrending. There are times when Junior is forced to walk and hitchhike the twenty-some miles to and from school because his family doesn’t have money for gas. During the darkest part of the book, several terrible tragedies hit Junior’s family. Racism – by both the whites and the Native Americans – controls many of the characters and Junior bears the brunt of much hate.
There is no sugarcoating in this book. It is painfully honest and has even managed to land itself on some banned books lists (check out Rebecca’s post for the excerpt that is primarily responsible for this honor). But the good-natured attitude and wry commentary that accompanies all the bluntness makes it an insightful and worthwhile read.
Don’t take my word for it. Check out what others are saying about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:
The Book Lady’s Blog – Book Chat: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Fizzy Thoughts – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Jessecreation’s Weblog – STD Conferences and YA Lit
New York Times – Off the Rez