Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The

Sherman Alexie
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2017-01-02
Excellent read! I've had this book for a few months now, but I finally got around to reading it. Sherman Alexie wrote a semi- (totally?) autobiography story of a young man (Junior/Arnold Spirit) who shares his experiences of growing up, living on a reservation and choosing to go to a high school off the "rez" and what it shows him.
 
We learn a bit about Junior's life on the reservation, his friends, the world around him. They include Spokane Indian powwows to avoiding bullies to going to the sub-standard high school. One day, Junior throws a book at a teacher. And instead of being punished and sent to jail for assault (for example) the teacher tells Junior that he can be something more. That the others on the rez have given up for various reasons, but Junior has the ability and the drive to succeed.
 
This leads Junior to ask his parents to attend a school outside of the reservation, where the rich white kids go. And there he encounters a whole new world, full of racism, bullying, how the "haves" (vs. the "have nots") live, etc. It was fascinating to read how Junior writes about how on the rez, everybody knows everybody else. They know each other's businesses and gossip. But out in Reardan, Junior realizes he has no idea who are the fathers of some of his eventual friends--they don't come to their kids' games, plays, special events, etc. As Junior notes, some of those dad disappear, right into the couch of their nice living rooms.
 
Some of the material was painful to read. Not only was Junior different from the white kids in Reardan, he also stood out on the reservation because he was born with water on his brain (leading his head to be strangely shaped), he has a stutter. And like many on the reservation, his family is incredibly poor: his family is unable to pay for care for Junior's dog when he falls ill, and his father must resort to a putting Oscar the dog down.
 
Overall, though, this was pretty good read. I admit to being exceptionally bored when he discusses basketball (a sport I don't care for), although interwoven in his basketball exploits are also tales of how Junior becomes more accepted among his schoolmates, how he faces exile from his former classmates for choosing to go Reardan. It was pretty interesting to see how many turned their backs on Junior simply because he chose to leave the reservation to attend school and why.
 
I also thought it was a little odd how quickly/how easily Junior seemed to be accepted by the white kids at Reardan. It could be that this was condensed for the sake of the story, but I was surprised to see how soon Junior quickly won people over, to the point where his classmates will stand up for when a teacher points out he has been tardy/absent too often.
 
Lately I've been skeptical of a lot of YA literature hype: I haven't liked a lot of them and was feeling suspicious of this as an award-winner (as noted on the cover). I would strongly recommend this one for anyone: adult, young adult, teen, etc. There are topics that might not be for the younger set: racism, bullying, homophobic insults, several deaths, eating disorders, masturbation/sex, but none of them feel overdone or are over emphasized (I thought). They're simply a part of his life in some way or another.
 
I bought it and am glad I did. However, it's a relatively short book so I don't know if it's be good for a commute/plane ride.
i really enjoyed this book. i read it a few weeks ago, and forgot to add it, so my reaction isn't really fresh in my mind. but the story was engaging and i really liked the narrarator.
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