The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Illustrated by Ellen Forney. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. 288 pages. pap. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-316-01369-7.
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Narrated by Sherman Alexie. Recorded Books, LLC, 2008. CD. 5 hours. $46.75. ISBN 978-1-428-18297-4.
Annotation: A teenage boy wants to develop the courage to leave his Spokane Indian Reservation so he has a chance at pursuing his dreams.
Summary: Arnold Spirit, better known as Junior, is a teenager on a Spokane Indian Reservation. He is intellectually gifted but physically impaired due to being a hydrocephalic. He is a cartoonist who can more easily communicate with art than with words. He knows that in order for him to pursue his dreams he will need to leave the Indian Reservation because of the poverty and hopelessness on the “rez.” With the encouragement of a teacher, Junior decides to attend Reardan, an all-white high school twenty-two miles away. At Reardan, he experiences prejudice for being an Indian and on the reservations, his friends turn their backs on him and view him as a traitor to the tribe, including his best friend, Rowdy. He is seen as an apple, red on the outside and white on the inside. Despite his trials including many family alcohol-related deaths, Junior is able to get on Reardan’s basketball team, get a girlfriend, and become well regarded at school. He makes amends with Rowdy and sees hope for his future.
Evaluation: The cartoon artwork spread throughout the novel complements and re-enforces the text. The pencil illustrations look like they could have been drawn by a high school student. The crude language, mature subject matter, and physical and alcohol abuse paint a realistic portrait of life on an Indian Reservation. Alexie Sherman draws from his own life experience to write this revelatory and often humorous novel exposing the challenges of life on an Indian Reservation. Recommended for ages 14 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Semi-Autobiographical, Realistic Fiction, American Indians, Racism, Identity, Friendship, Family, Persistence, Abuse, Aspirations, Sports, Hope, Alcoholism
Awards: 2009 Odyssey Award Winner for Excellence in Audiobook Production, 2009 ALA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Award, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 American Booksellers Children’s Literature Honor Award, 2007 L.A. Times Award Honor Book, 2007 National Book Award Winner – Young People’s Literature,