The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, with art by Ellen Forney, is a New York Times Bestseller and a Nation Book Award winner. The genre of this book is realistic fiction, and the recommended audience is 14 and up. The story follows Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a 14 year-old who has lived his entire life on the Spokane Indian Reservation, drawing comics to help him process the world, which helps him deal with a life full of struggles and pain.
Junior has never been very hopeful. Since he’s grown up in poverty, he doesn’t have a lot of hope for his future, and believes he will end up living the same lives as his parents and the people before them. Junior worries about living like his parents because they both constantly struggle to get money, one is an alcoholic and the other is recovering, and they’ve lived on the reservation forever. He doesn’t think he will ever have a lot of money or ever be able to go to college. One day there is an incident at school where Junior ends up throwing a book at his teacher out of frustration, which later leads to his teacher coming up to him and telling Junior that he must leave the reservation. His teacher says that he doesn’t want Junior to give up and that he wants him to keep fighting for a better future. “The only thing you kids are being taught here is how to give up. Your friend Rowdy, he’s given up. That’s why he likes to hurt people. He wants them to feel as bad as he does” (Alexie 42). After this, Junior decides to take a leap of faith and go to an all white high school off of the reservation in a town called Reardan. When Junior tells his best friend Rowdy that he’s leaving, Rowdy gets upset and calls him a traitor. Throughout the story you get to watch Junior grow as a person and learn many important life lessons. The theme of this story is hope and there are many examples of it in the book.
When Junior decides to go to Reardan, he discovers that the people there have expectations for him, and he starts to realize he should expect things of himself and discovers hope. Junior learns that regardless of what other people say or the situation he’s in, he should always expect better for himself. An example of this is when he decides to try out for the basketball team and ends up on the varsity team. Since he’s part of a team, he discovers that people have high expectations for him to do well. “...[A]s they expected more of me, I expected more of myself, and it just grew and grew...” (Alexie 180). The Reardan high school was very different because everyone there seemed to be pretty sure of their secure futures. Junior realizes that just because he may be different then the people at Reardan doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve a good future as well.
This book has a very interesting perspective because I have not read a lot of stories about the modern day life of an Indian or what it’s like growing up poor. Junior talks a lot about his struggles and opinions on life. He not only criticizes white people, but is also not afraid to shy away from sharing his many critiques of his fellow Indians. What makes Junior’s perspective really unique is how he processes life using his drawings. When he talks about what he experiences using his drawings, Junior isn’t afraid to be brutally honest with his opinions and thoughts.
I thought that this story was very enjoyable and interesting, and I will rate it four stars out of five. I believe that books like this are very important to read and educate people because at school when I was studying how Indians lived, we never talked about how they actually live now. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction, reading about the lives of people who don’t have a lot of representation, and reading about characters with a different and unique perspective.
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