The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

October 1, 2009
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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on a reservation? Well, in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, you can read about the experiences of Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a Native American who has a disability and is trapped on the Indian reservation, looking for a way out. Junior has one friend, a very tough kid, named Rowdy. Rowdy and Junior are the best of friends and have always been there for each other since Junior is always being beat up by everyone for having his disability. Even though his disability affects his brain, he is still very good at playing basketball at school and with Rowdy.

Junior is also a great cartoonist. He draws to get away from all the harassment and crazy stuff going on in his life. One day in class, Junior notices how the schools for Native Americans don’t have much money because they are using the same books that their parents used when they went to school. Junior gets so mad that he picks up his book and throws it. He isn’t really aiming for something but he hits his teacher. His teacher’s nose breaks but he isn’t mad at Junior for throwing the book. Instead he tells him that he is smart, and that he hasn’t lost hope for him. Junior has promise, and he transfers to the white school, Reardon, outside the Spokane Indian rez.

Like Melba in Warriors Don’t Cry Junior is breaking a racial barrier. When he goes to Reardon, he is the only one on the campus, besides the mascot, who is Indian. Reardon is far away from Junior’s house so he usually walks home or gets a ride with one of his dad’s friends. While he is there he finds some love with a popular girl named Penelope and goes by Arnold. At Reardon he plays basketball and betrays his friend by playing on a white team. Of course this stirs up Rowdy. What happens to their friendship is something the reader figures out as they take the journey of reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

I very much enjoyed this adventurous book because Sherman Alexie writes very interesting situations that a high-school Native American experiences on his reservation and at his white school. The cartoons, by Ellen Forney, make it sort of like a graphic novel, and you see what is actually happening in the story and in his mind. You cheer for Junior to succeed on his journey to a new life. I recommend this book to teens and adults because it is mind-boggling—it makes us shift our perspectives and step into Junior’s mindset.





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