The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-06-13 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

" Amazing book. Kind of kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. " said.

" Really enjoyed this! It was a rather interesting writing style. It had this very casual feeling to it. I will say that there are a few things here and there that irked me, but for the most part it was enjoyable. Full video review to come! :) " said.

""Reservations were meant to be prisons, you know? Indians were supposed to move onto reservations and die. We were supposed to disappear."- Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I rarely enjoy YA books but I really liked this one. Narrated by Junior (Arnold) Spirit it tells the story of the life of a young Indian boy on and off a reservation

Junior, an unlucky boy living on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington,was born with too much cerebral spinal fluid in his skull and this brought about lots of physical problems. Poor Junior is already unpopular on the reservation but becomes even more so when he opts to transfer to a "white" school off the reservation.

I read the book in one sitting;I felt so much sympathy for Junior who has so many trials to deal with at such a young age. Even as a 14 year old, he manages to show us the problems that Native Americans face, for example the poverty, the alcohol, abuse. However, he also manages to show the positive aspects of the culture.

"But we reservation Indians don't get to realize our dreams. We don't get those chances. Or choices. We're just poor. That's all we are.'

"It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it."

I saw a lot of parallels with how American Indians were treated and what colonialism did to Africa. As Junior's teacher said: "We were supposed to make you give up being Indian. Your songs and stories and language and dancing.Everything. We weren't trying to kill Indian people. We were trying to kill Indian culture." Very tragic.

It was a sad book but it was also quirky and funny. Highly recommended.
" said.

"I really don't know how to write a review that will do this book justice. All I know is that I laughed, I cried, then I laughed some more. And this review will be my feeble attempt to convey the genius of Sherman Alexie's writing. While this is my first Alexie book, it most certainly will not be my last.

Junior is a Spokane Indian living on a reservation who takes a huge risk by transferring to the white high school twenty-two miles away from the "rez." This takes a lot of courage for a boy, who is already known around the rez as a "retard" and a "faggot". Most of that has to do with the brain damage that he endured as a child, the subsequent seizures that would often plague him, and his general awkwardness. So already he's an outcast. When he transfers to the new school he isolates himself even further because his tribe views him as a traitor. Add to that alcoholic parents and a best friend turned frienemy and Junior is about the loneliest soul you could imagine. But he keeps trucking on.

Through it all, the good and the bad, Junior never loses his sense of humor. I find that heartening and hopeful. When faced with poverty, death, prejudice, and bullying Junior still manages to find humor in such tragic circumstances. Junior even verbalizes this saying:

". . . I realized that, sure, Indians were drunk and sad and displaced and crazy and mean, but dang, we knew how to laugh. When it comes to death, we know that laughter and tears are pretty much the same thing."
As a white person, I cannot say whether or not The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian accurately portrays the Native American experience however, Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian woman and assistant professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose blog discusses "Critical perspectives of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society-at-large", praises the book stating:

"There's a lot in the book that I really like because I connect with the character, the setting, the experiences... It is real and brutally honest."

If Debbie finds it a valid representation of the Native American experience, I'm certainly going to believe her considering her heritage and her educational background. I encourage you to check out Debbie's blog if you're at all interested in the representation of Native Americans in YA (or Children's) lit. Her blog is a wonderful place to get recommendations for accurate portrayals of Native Americans.

A lot of the tragedy that befalls Junior is, in some way, related to one of the harsh realities of life on the rez: alcoholism. As I understand, this is a huge problem among Native Americans. It was interesting the way Junior described having an alcoholic father and how that compared to his white classmates' fathers:

"I mean, yeah, my dad would sometimes go on a drinking binge and be gone for a week, but those white dads can completely disappear without ever leaving the living room. They can just BLEND into their chairs. They become their chairs. . . There are white parents, especially fathers, who never come to school. They don't come for their kids' games, concerts, plays, or carnivals." " I realize my parents are pretty good. . . they make sacrifices for me. They worry about me. They talk to me. And best of all, they listen to me."

So while his parent's aren't perfect and as much as Junior may envy some of the advantages of his white classmates, he still understands, appreciates, and values his family and his community.

It's really difficult for me to articulate how amazing this book is. On one hand it's heartbreakingly sad, on the other it is humorous and uplifting. It just goes to show that we're not all just one thing. Junior, isn't just an Indian, this isn't just another YA book. This is something special.
" said.

"It seems I’ve taken my sweet time getting to Sherman Alexie’s work, and for that I’m kind of bummed. While I’ve heard the rave reviews of this novel in particular–with its National Book Award and all–I had my doubts. I don’t always read the YA books, but when I do, I hope that they are as finely written as this one with a unique narrative voice, an emotional reading experience, and plenty to think about, no matter what your age. — Andi Miller

from The Best Books We Read In June:
" said.

"I am ashamed to admit, I don't know much about Native Americans. What is even more shameful is that the little that I know is taken directly from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books. So you can imagine what an eye-opener this book has been to me.

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" narrates a story of Arnold Spirit, Jr., a Spokane Indian teenage boy who is determined to take his future into his own hands. The only way for him to do it however is to leave his troubled school on the reservation to transfer to an all-white high school in a town nearby. Although everybody on the rez realizes that there is no future for those who decide to spend their lives in Spokane, Junior's transfer is taken as a betrayal of the tribe, his family, and Indian heritage. Junior finds himself in a lonely place where he is ostracized by his tribesmen and not fully accepted by his white classmates. The book takes us on a journey with Junior as he attempts to find a balance between Indian and non-Indian parts of his life.

It is a remarkable story not only in a way it portrays life on the reservations, which is ridden with poverty, alcohol, and general feeling of defeat. It also tells a truly touching story of a boy who strives to better his life, overcomes adversity and almost impossible obstacles. As much as I hate using this word in my reviews, this is an inspirational story, full of hope, love, and triumph against all odds.

I highly recommend this book

" said.

"This is another book I took a long time getting around to reading. My desire to read it was driven partly because it has been banned in several school districts, most likely for references to masturbation and boners and other topics of interest to the normal 14 year-old boy. My thanks to the fine folks at The Banned Books Club group for giving me the opportunity to read and discuss this and many other fine books.

Alexie's book is a unique coming-of-age tale of Junior, a Spokane Indian boy growing up in the high deserts of eastern Washingon, who decides he wants something more from life. Transferring to a mostly white school outside of the reservation he experiences, not only culture shock from his new surroundings but the ostracism of his fellow Indians for his turning his back on his tribe. It's a poignant tale that mixes humor and heartache in equal measure.

In addition, the audio recording is ably read by the author himself.
" said.

"I consider Sherman Alexie's The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven one of my favorite books, but as is often my way, I read it over 10 years ago and inexplicably haven't read anything else by Alexie since. Maybe I just worry no other books will live up to that first one. But The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has obviously garnered a lot of attention--it won the National Book Award, and here in my town it was the "One Book, One Philadelphia" selection a few years back. There's always a big pile of copies of it in my local bookstore, and I finally gave in to it--I don't read a ton of YA, but perhaps subconsciously I thought this would prevent me from directly comparing it to Lone Ranger and Tonto.

I'm not sure this strategy worked, exactly, because at first I was disappointed by the tone of this--it just seemed a little too goofy, and I began to wish I'd chosen some other Alexie for my second book. Fortunately, as I kept going, I warmed to the characters, all of whom were extremely well drawn, and I was very moved by Junior's experiences both on the reservation and at his new school off the rez. I also began to notice similarities between this and Lone Ranger and Tonto--mainly in the use of mild magical realism and the telling of (tall?) tales from the past.

I'm really impressed by what an achievement this is as a work of YA fiction. There are literally millions of kids in this country (and parents, let's be honest) who have no idea what life is like on a reservation and what the experience can be when you leave it. It's so valuable to have a book like this, which gets this (often grim) message across yet is funny, unpretentious, and entirely fun to read. I'm hoping this book is being taught in schools and finds its way into a lot of hands, because it deserves every bit of attention it gets.

This book is illustrated by Ellen Forney, and the art is fun and sometimes quite interesting. My edition had an interview with Forney at the end, and if your copy has it as well, don't skip it--it's a fascinating look at her artistic process in creating the illustrations, and it made me appreciate them even more.

" said.

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