The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Hello, readers, whoever and wherever you are!

I admit that over the past few weeks I have been extremely negligent of this blog, and I apologize. I’ve been busy, and I expect that you have been too. However, as a writer, that is not an acceptable excuse (or is it ever in my book) so I will have to try to make it up over the next couple of days. 

Yet I have something important to do this afternoon (soccer game!) so I can’t write for long. Therefore I will write a short review of a rather short book. 

I was (and am) required to read this book for class. I ended up reading the whole thing within, oh, an hour or two on a bus ride because I’d finished the other book I’d brought with me (review to come: Lee Martin’s The Bright Forever) and, I hate to say it, was bored. So I read the whole book and now have to go back and annotate in chunks for class. 

The story: A Native American kid named Junior (aka Arnold, though that comes in later) lives on a reservation in Spokane, Washington. He lives a pretty miserable life, getting beat up all the time, one best and only friend, and a decaying family life. He also has a passion for school and was born with a brain defect (same kind that a cousin of mine had, actually), and is picked on for both of those things too. 

One day, Junior decides that he wants to get off the reservation. He wants to change his life. He wants to find hope. And where does he think hope will be? With the white people in a town twenty two miles away in a high school called Reardan. Junior goes to the school, becoming Arnold at this point because it’s his official name and is also “more white,” and starts a new life there. I can’t give away much besides that, but let’s just say that he goes through many ups and downs like most everyone else, especially high school-aged kids, and this is magnified by the situations he’s put in. 

This book was just okay. Just okay. Although Junior curses some in it, it seems less like a Young Adult book and more like an upper-level kids book, built for early middle or late elementary school kids. It is structured a bit like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (which I’ve only heard about and glanced at the inside of one), because it has cartoons and pictures built into it, which make it really fast to read. The reason we’re reading it for class is that it’s a good introductory book to a lot of topics and discussions that may be too blatant or complex in other texts to have deep discussions on. It is not a meaty book, but it is funny at times, and is interesting to bring up ideas like race, poverty, bullying and discrimination, and white privilege (which was our discussion topic yesterday). 

Sherman Alexie has a direct way of writing that conveys emotions really well. My favorite parts of the book were with Gordy, especially at the beginning of their relationship, as that was what I could connect best to. No matter what your life experience, there are ways to connect to the emotions Alexie puts forth in the book. 

That said, the book gets two and a half stars. It’s okay. Just okay, like I said before. I know a couple kids to refer to it to read, but it is not a book for kids above maybe age twelve unless they really want to analyze it. And if they analyze at least a little like I do, they will find that there isn’t much there vocal-wise, or style-wise, that make this book a YA pick. I did enjoy it some, and will continue to try to annotate it deeply for class (there are great connections to other texts to be made at parts). 

Enjoy your week! I will get to posting for two other books, and quotes, soon. Stay tuned, read lots, and have fun!

-Nicole

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One thought on “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

  1. I haven’t previously read Sherman Alexie’s writing, and it sounds like this won’t be the one I start with. For Native American life insights, I read Louise Erdich’s fiction (years ago). From your comments, I wouldn’t rule out Sherman Alexie altogether, I’d likely just look for a different book (or perhaps short fiction which I prefer anyway, given my schedule or maybe just unwillingness to commit to a novel if I don’t know the author).

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