The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
As the title suggests The Diary of a Part-Time Indian is written in a first person episodic diary format. The novel follows fourteen-year-old Native American Arnold Spirit Jr., known as Junior, over his first year in high school.
Junior is growing up on a Spokane Indian Reservation near Wellpinit, Washington. He was born with Hydrocephalus (a medical condition in which there is an build-up of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain). As a result Junior is small for his age, suffers from seizures, has poor eyesight, a lisp and a stutter. The poor guy is picked on by practically everyone on the reservation – his only friend is Rowdy, who is abused at home.
After receiving encouragement from one of his teachers Junior decides to leave the reservation and attend Reardon High School, an all-white school where the only other Indian ironically is the school’s mascot. The downside he looses his only friend Rowdy, who sees the move as a betrayal.
At his new school he befriends a bright student Gordy and develops a crush on Penelope, the most popular girl in school. Through his interactions with Gordy, Penelope and other students at the school Junior learns both more about their culture and his own.
Junior is an aspiring artist and the novel features 65 of his comic illustrations. These illustrations by artist Ellen Forney add humour and reveal more about how Junior sees the world.
This is the debut young adult novel by Sherman Alexie, who had previously written for adults. The novel is semi-autobiographical and is inspired by events from Alexie’s own childhood.
The novel tackles some topical issues including race, poverty, alcoholism, eating disorders, violence, bullying and loss of a loved one. Due to its content and language the book has been challenged and banned in some schools.
I picked this book up for reasons I’m not sure of. I’d heard it mentioned—neither positively nor negatively, just mentioned—and it was on a table at Barnes and Noble, so I looked at it and said “Okay, I’m buying this” and headed to the checkout. All told, not one of my most rational or thoughtful book purchases.
Irrationality aside, I’m really glad that I have The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on my shelf. Sherman Alexie told his story with humor and realism, as well as obviously strong emotion. I found myself liking this book much more than I expected.
Junior (AKA Arnold) is a wimp. There’s really no other way to describe him. He’s spent his whole life as a punching bag for every other kid on the rez, he never wins a fight, he cries all the time, and he throws up whenever he’s nervous. Yet in spite of that, Junior proved, over the course of the novel, that he was a strong, likable kid. I don’t relate to him very much, but I enjoyed what he had to say and how he said it.
Normally I’m not a fan of breaking the fourth wall; it just doesn’t work for me. However, even though Junior’s way of speaking directly to the reader wasn’t my favorite, I found that I didn’t mind it. His way of presenting things was often funny, and always truthful and raw. And that, in the end, made up for a lot of my problems.
There are books out there that are awesome. Or, rather, they would be awesome, but for one tiny thing. Something that seems insignificant, but really isn’t. Those books make me a little sad, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was one of them.
Because as emotional and gripping and visceral as this book was in spots, I think Alexie may have missed out on where it counted most.
A lot of things happen in this book. My favorite part was basketball, because I love basketball, and those scenes were done well. But there were also a lot of funerals in this book too, a lot of deaths. And, for me, those scenes didn’t read well. They were flat, straightforward, and routine. Especially toward the end, I felt that I lost connection with Sherman Alexie’s prose, for whatever reason.
I guess that what I’m saying is: in spite of myself, I hoped for more from this book. And sadly, I didn’t get more.
But, I mean, this is still a really good book. And like I said, I’m really happy I own a copy of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It’s a good book, worth reading, with a unique story to tell.
It only took me one day to read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. When this happens, it's because the book is so good and engrossing I don't want to put it down. This book is heartbreaking and joyful and hopeful! It's the story of Junior, a Spokane Indian, that transfers from his reservation high school to an all-white high school in a nearby town. He receives grief from both sides but ends up finding the hope he has always wanted and needed. Junior goes through a lot of life-changing events during his first year at the new school. By the end of the story, he has come full circle. He's able to embrace both his past and his present while looking towards the future. It's an amazing ride! It's a bittersweet look at the life of a boy stuck between doing what he wants and doing what is expected. I highly recommend this book for all ages, young and old!
Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Author: Sherman Alexie Grade: A- Ideal Audience: Boys & Girls, 12+
Junior is living on a Indian reservation, and has already subjected
himself to a sure future of being a loser. Where he lives, if you want
to get anywhere or be anybody, you have to be white. The loser lives
are saved for the Native Americans.
However, Junior surprises himself by making a life-changing decision. He decides to leave
the reservation during school hours and instead he attends the local
white school. Hopefully this will give him a chance to escape the
never-ending cycle of poverty at the reservation and give him a place
in the world.
Predictably, Junior has some problems fitting in.
At the reservation, his transfer is viewed as a betrayal, and some of
the kids at the white school aren't used to an Indian kid. The rest of
the novel follows Junior's journey of discovering just who, exactly, he
My thoughts:The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
is an absolutely hilarious novel. Junior's voice is honest and
entertaining, and he presents every story with an angle that makes it
just that much more funny. I also loved the cartoons scattered
throughout the book.
Sherman Alexie's novel is a coming of age story that teens everywhere, no matter what background, can relate to.
Junior lives on an Indian reservation. He had a problem with his brain when he was born that almost killed him, but her survived and is now merely funny-looking. When he decides that the only way he is going to get anywhere in life is to go to the white school 22 miles away, almost everyone else on the reservation treats him like a pariah, including his best friend.
Parts of this book were very funny and parts were very sad. Alexie describes both the horrible and wonderful parts of life on Junior's reservation. Junior's experience with going to a white school was very believable. Although Junior doesn't have it easy in either of his worlds (white or Indian) he perseveres is a very memorable character.