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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie's debut young adult novel which explores Indian identity

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Treat Yourself Right Now

  • Dec 28, 2008
I wish it was possible to give a book six stars on Amazon. Or ten stars. Or a hundred stars. Not for just any book, mind you; only for those that pack such emotional wallop, humor, and writing into them that the usual scale just doesn't do them justice. The sort of book like the young adult novel The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie that just makes you immediately realize this book deserves way more than just five stars.

Arnold (also known as Junior), lives on the Spokane Native American Reservation where drinking and dysfunction are imprinted on the genes of its inhabitants. Arnold's faced a lot in his life, including being born as a hydroencephalic to well-meaning but disappointing parents. But as Arnold looks around and sees how everyone, including his older sister, has given up, something is sparked within and he becomes determined to make something of his life. So with lots of courage, Arnold talks his parents into letting him attend Reardon High School, the "white" school outside the reservation that will give him the contacts and advantages the rez school cannot.

From the moment Arnold steps into Reardon, his life changes, as he knew it would, and a lesser person would have been brought down immediately in the face of becoming an outcast on the reservation for having the nerve to think he could be "better". Life at Reardon is difficult, too; as the only Indian at the school, Arnold's got to somehow forge friendships from people very different than himself. But Arnold's not a quitter, even when he's forced to walk the distance to school because his father is either too drunk or too broke to take him; not even when his former schoolmates and their parents turn out en masse to boo and throw things when he plays basketball against the rez school. Arnold takes refuge in his skill as a cartoonist and his self-knowledge that somehow he will survive.

The story is told with liberal humor and lots of tragedy, and Arnold is a typical self-deprecating teen. Alexie's writing is the kind I'd like to actually crawl inside, it's so good. An example is when Arnold's math teacher convinces him that he can better himself: "I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply hope by hope." Later, while clinging to his mother following a devastating tragedy, Arnold says: "...she held on to me for hours. Held onto me like I was a baby. And she kept crying. So many tears. My clothes and hair were soaked with her tears. It was, like, my mother had given me a grief shower, you know? Like she'd baptized me with her pain."

When you finish some books and close them, you may know you've enjoyed them by the way you're left feeling. Maybe you're smiling over a happy ending, or you're breathing hard because you've survived an action-filled climax. With The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, there will be so much more; Arnold is going to live with you in his heart-warming, hopeful manner forever.

Six stars. One hundred stars. One very large star that supersedes all others. Whatever. This book is simply one of the best I've read. I cannot recommend it highly enough for people of all ages.

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review by . July 20, 2010
I love this book!  I think it is smart and funny, while also allowing for the exploration of weighty and tough racial identity issues.  Graphics interspersed throughout the novel are loved by young readers and add loads of humor.  Teens love it and adults enjoy it too!  For those interested, here's a quick summary.      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian relates the struggle of a ninth grade boy to navigate two cultures and identities.  …
Quick Tip by . June 21, 2010
a fantastic novel
Quick Tip by . June 19, 2010
review by . June 18, 2010
This is actually not Alexie's first novel, but his first novel for young adults. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of a Spokane Indian boy named Arnold, and his decision to attend a high school off the Reservation. Alternating between tragedy and comedy, it details his experiences with tribal and family life and with school.                 Arnold’s narrative details the despair and beauty of living …
review by . June 24, 2009
Pros: Different; humorous; emotional; appealing to many ages and types; true-to-life     Cons: May not be totally appealing or appropriate for younger tweens or children     The Bottom Line: A funny, emotional story... the bottom lines absolutely, truly, loved this diary of a part-time Indian     My mother, a high school librarian and book-lover, is always recommending books to me.  She pushed me to find Absolutely True Diary …
review by . December 04, 2008
Junior is just another unlucky kid living on an Indian reservation, but unfortunately, he's even unluckier than most. He was born with brain damage and a strangely disproportioned body, which causes him to be alternately beat up and ridiculed by all the other kids on the reservation except his only friend Rowdy. Junior might be smart and a good artist, but growing up in poverty and surrounded by alcoholics and broken dreams makes him believe that he's destine to the same life he's always had. But …
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Tammy Koudelka McCann ()
Ranked #444
I'm a tall person trapped in a short person's body.
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Starred Review.Grade 7–10—Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with water on the brain, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist's grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney's simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. Reluctant readers can even skim the pictures and construct their own story based exclusively on Forney's illustrations. The teen's determination to both improve himself and ...
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Books, Cafe Libri, Young Adult Books, Teen Books, Native Americans, Diary Novels, Sherman Alexie, Native American Fiction


ISBN-10: 0316013684
ISBN-13: 978-0316013680
Author: Sherman Alexie
Genre: Children's Chapter Books
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Date Published: September 12, 2007
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