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

March 21, 2017

If someone told you miniature, third world countries were scattered across the western United states, you probably wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Unless you lived near a native reservation. When most Americans hear about these reservations, they imagine little native villages peacefully carrying on their traditions into modern times. Unfortunately this is not the case. Sherman Alexie, a Spokane-Coeur d’Alene novelist, short story writer, poet, and filmmaker has managed to show us what life is really like on a reservation in his book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The title is a bit of a mouthful, if you ask me, but it describes the book perfectly.

Arnold Spirit, better known as Junior, is a stuttering fourteen-year-old high school freshman with a terrible lisp. Like the author, Junior lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation, Alexie claims to have loosely based the character on himself. Junior leads a very troubled life, living in poverty with alcoholic parents, a sister who disappears for days, and a sweet grandmother who seems to be a perfect person. He loves basketball, and draws cartoons to distract himself from his life. The story begins with a new school year for Junior. In geometry, he is given “new” textbooks, but is shocked to find his mother’s name written inside. Realizing how unfair the poverty that he lives in is, Junior angrily throws the textbook, accidentally hitting his teacher in the face. Once his teacher realizes why Junior is so furious, he motivated him to escape his horrible life, and go to a white school outside the reservation. His best friend, Rowdy, is completely crushed that his friend is leaving him, and refuses to talk. Junior is considered a traitor to not only to his best friend, but to the rest of the reservation, as well. Junior has to walk miles to a new school, where he faces racism, stereotypes, and other struggles. As life finally starts to get better away from home, they only get worse on the reservation, and Junior is caught living two lives. Ultimately, he needs to decide which life he really wants to live.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is definitely one of my favorite books of all time, and I felt like I could relate to Junior in many ways. Alexis captured life on a reservation perfectly, and was very straight forward, in a way that most schools unfortunately don’t approve of in their curriculum. This is definitely not a book for kids, filled with poverty, violence, tragedy, murder, alcohol, and a lot of profanity. All in all, I would rate this book a 10 out of 10, and would recommend it to anyone 13+ who is interested in what its like to be a native person in America.

Graham

Little, Brown and Company

229 Pages


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