The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by 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.

I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, but I finally downloaded it after a friend told me my writing is like Sherman Alexie’s. Well, I kind of forgot this was a young adult novel so I think the jury’s still out.

I read this book in about two days. It was really absorbing and completely not what I thought it would be. I’m not sure I even knew what it would be like, but it certainly wasn’t like it was.

This is an interesting book that speaks to some very human truths. Truths about race relations in the US between Native Americans and white people. But it also speaks to ideas about our perspective.

To Junior, the white school he transfers to is literally legions about the rez school. But as a reader, you know his idea of the school is somewhat tainted by context. It’s hardly the best school ever, but it’s certainly better than what he has. One of the most poignant scenes in the novel, and in fact the scene that sets him on the path to transfer schools, is when Junior gets a textbook at the beginning of the year and sees that it was used by his own mother, thirty years ago. He ends up throwing the book at the teacher.

If I had to pick one moment that encapsulates the ideas of the novel, it would be that.

A quirky and sadly beautiful short read.

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