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

Arnold Spirit (known as Junior at home) is a 14-year-old Spokane Indian.  He was born with water on the brain, is regularly picked on by his peers, and loves to draw pictures.   He refers to the world as a series of broken dams and floods and his pictures are tiny lifeboats.   He loves basketball, and is fairly good on the Spokane Team.  He decided if he stays in the reservation all his life he is never going to go anywhere just like his parents.  They too had dreams once of being something more.  He requests that they let him go to the rich white school in Reardan which is 20 minutes away.  His parents agree.  This destroys his friendship with his best friend Rowdy, who has always been this crazy Native American kid who will beat up anyone who looks at him twice.  This once meant Rowdy  was a source of protection to Junior, and now includes Junior in the beating category.

What happens when Arnold (known as Arnold when he switches schools) is that he once again finds himself the blunt of jokes and discrimination.  He stays at his new school, determined to make it work, even sometimes having to walk  the twenty minutes to and from when his dad does not have enough money for gas in the car.  Eventually he makes a few friends along the way, and is able to find a happy medium between his life on the reservation and his school that is not.

Confession time.  I picked this book up as part of Banned Books Week.  It came to my library late but I still wanted to read it.  After I brought it home with several others I looked up why it was banned.  On line it said that is was banned for talk of masturbation, racism, and vulgar language.  I almost returned it to the library unread.  It was honestly, the first of all the banned books that I read this past couple of weeks that I can say I questioned if I wanted to read it or not.  I  don’t condone banning, not in the least, but I do believe in our rights to choose  to read a book or not.

However, I listed this book on a post about the books I had received at my library and I started receiving comments from people who had read this book saying what an amazing read it was, some even calling it a favorite.  A few others who hadn’t read it said that they had been wanting too.  To all of these people, I say thank you.  If not for you, I may have missed out on an incredible reading experience.

So I was cautiously optimistic when I opened up the book, still reserving the right to put it down at any time. (Oh the conversations I have with myself sometimes… :razz:)

I didn’t put it down.

The parts that I felt may have been unnecessary were so small.  They did not take away from the book.  I read this story told from a 14-year-old boys perspective and I have to say I really enjoyed the incredible insight he brought into race, stereo types, and color.

The pictures throughout the book are so important to the story line and really give Arnold’s story a life.  The pictures add to what he is feeling, be it happiness, confusion, anger, or pain.  You can see it all, and for me, I could feel it as well.

As Arnold shares his story I was reminded again how strong prejudices can be when people see through eyes of judgment.  What I also seen was that the power of friendship and acceptance has a much stronger presence and hold.

While I would not say hand this book to your young child, I do think it is an important read for older YA and holds within its pages an amazing read that I will not soon forget.

I picked up this book from my local library

I would however, love to own this read.

30 thoughts on “The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

  1. Hmmmm……this does sound intriguing. My boys are part Siletz Indian (on their dad’s side). They have never had to deal with racism or prejudice though.

  2. I LOVED this book and am so glad you didn’t put it down! I thought it was funny, interesting, poignant, and informational all rolled into one.

  3. I did order this for the library, but never got a chance to read it. I am not sure how much it circulated. This area has problems with prejudice. I hoped putting books on the shelf which showed it for what it is, a difference could be made. As with many of the adult books, the people who need to read them don’t.

    1. That’s true Pat in everything – there will always be people who choose to keep their eyes and ears closed. Thank goodness there is a flip side of that and many people like us who want to read and learn more about other cultures, other opinions, and of things that we would not experience if not through books. 🙂

  4. Wasn’t this great? I loved it! I’m envious of the pictures you got for your review, but you’re such a whiz with “special effects” I am not surprised!

    I don’t know if you’ve read other books by Sherman Alexie, but I think this is his most “upbeat” book. I have tried others, but so much pain comes through, I couldn’t keep going. I love this book for the humor and acceptance and spunk that Arnold brings to his situation. And of course the great, great cartoons!

    1. Jill, I didn’t even know he wrote other books! I didn’t even look at author info on this one and I guess I should have. 🙂

      I think the cartoons really express Arnold’s feelings at different points of the books… they add something unique. I really loved it too.

  5. Glad you enjoyed it, esp. since I suggested you make room on your ‘dance card’ for it. I loved this book. rhapsodyinbooks is right about the pain is some of Alexis other books. I read Flight which also has a teen protagonist, but is sold and marketed as an adult book, and rightly so do to the pain and violence. It was good to, but hard to get through in places.

  6. After just finishing the book, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only has this book been one of my favorite books I have been assigned to read in school, but it was by far the most educational book. Even during the racial comments and derogatory marks made throughout the book, there were moral lessons behind them all. I believe that the parents who have voted to ban this book in the school curriculum are just trying to shield their kids from the realities of life. I honestly hope that the kids that have the book banned at their school, go to the bookstore and buy themselves a copy to read.

  7. The concept of “banned books” was introduced to me in middle school after reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. What intrigued me was why such a well written and inspirational story could be looked down upon by anyone, especially to the point of removing it from the bookshelves. Since then, I have made it a point to search out other books that have been banned at some point or another. I must say, I am extremely grateful to my english teacher for teaching ATDPTI in her class. As a more obscure novel until recently, I dont think I would have picked it up otherwise. Having read many great classics, all I can say is that ATDPTI is definately a classic of our time. What is ironic about the censorship of books like ATDPTI and Catcher in the Rye is that, in an attempt to stifle them for their “explicit” content and crude writing-style, people find the books all the more alluring. Its realistic approach to life should be something that is valued and respected, not downcast as “slander”. It is a shame that some in our society cannot see the true value in these books. For those who have not read ATDPTI, I would highly reccomend going to your closest bookstore or library and taking out a copy, its more than worth it.

Hmmmm... what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s