The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

Hardcover, 2007

Call number



Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2007), Edition: First Edition, 240 pages


Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Media reviews

Working in the voice of a 14-year-old forces Alexie to strip everything down to action and emotion, so that reading becomes more like listening to your smart, funny best friend recount his day while waiting after school for a ride home.

User reviews

LibraryThing member labfs39
Sherman Alexie lives here in the Northwest, so I have felt remiss in not having read any of his books. I'm so glad I rectified that omission. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an absolute delight. Although it is technically a young adult book, it won the National Book Award and was
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a New York Times Notable Book for 2007. And with good reason. Based in large part on Alexie's own experiences, this coming-of-age story is incredibly touching and uplifting, as well as edifying for those of us not familiar with modern life on an Indian reservation.

Junior was born with encephalitis and other medical problems which make him a target for the other kids on the reservation who regularly bully him. Fortunately, he has a best friend, Rowdy, who looks out for him, and parents who, although alcoholics like most of the adult population of the reservation, are loving and supportive. Creative and smart, Junior pursues his dream of a better life by transferring from the reservation school to Reardon, the larger high school in an all-white farming community 22 miles away. Instantly he becomes an outcast on the reservation for "going white", while simultaneously struggling to gain acceptance from his white school peers. As Junior overcomes school difficulties and home tragedies, he slowly begins to realize that his identity is much larger than either Indian or white.

I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms.
And the tribe of cartoonists.
And the tribe of chronic masturbators.
And the tribe of teenage boys.
And the tribe of small-town kids.
And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners.
And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.
And the tribe of poverty.
And the tribe of funeral-goers.
And the tribe of beloved sons.
And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.
It was a huge realization.
And that's when I knew I was going to be okay.
But it also reminded me of the people who were not going to be okay.

I liked this book for its unflinching look at a difficult life and for its spunky hero who refuses to lose hope despite terrible obstructions. The illustrations are brilliant. Ellen Forney collaborated with Alexie to create cartoons of the sort that Junior would have drawn, and they add both context and emotional impact. Since the author grew up on the Spokane Reservation and attended Reardon High, there is an authenticity to the story that is truly effecting. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member cammykitty
The Absolute Diary of a Part-Time Indian is going to appeal more to boys. It's a 5 star read for sure, and ties with Al Capone Does my Shirts as the best in my YA I've read this year. It's candid, crude, funny and poignant account of a Spokane Indian who decides he needs to go to a school off the
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reservation. Of course it's semi-autobiographical, but I couldn't tell you what parts are true and what aren't. I've got a good guess, since many of the elements in Part-Time Indian are also in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Reservation Blues. I'm curious of course, but I don't really care. Alexie obviously blended autobiography with art to create a message that was to be both entertaining and informative.

Alexie, is by his own words "a pissed off Indian." His writing is sharp, cutting and out-spoken. He's gotten the worst of both worlds - criticized for being too white, stomped on for being too native, criticized for discussing the booze and violence. However, there is a disconnect between his writing and his personal mannerisms in my own mind. I watched him once on a TV interview being talked over by another minority representative. I remember being irritated because I wanted to hear what he was trying to say, but he never got a chance to say it. The moderator never jumped in and said please, let Mr. Alexie make his point. I'll get to the point he was trying to address later in my comments. What I learned was true when I watched this interview, was that Sherman Alexie was voiceless. His writing was his voice. He represented many, many people in this world who don't have a voice. His writing is fueled by the anger of being voiceless.

His characters are voiceless, at least off the rez, too. When Junior, made Arnold because Junior is a silly name off the rez, begins speaking in class he is belittled. He's in trouble for challenging the teacher. He's also right. We hear Junior's thoughts, his reasons for his strange reactions, what he thinks versus what he says because what he thinks isn't anybody's business. I'm not American Indian, so I don't know, but I've heard this is a cultural thing for them. I also know much that I know and think about modern American Indians has been shaped by Sherman Alexie's writing. Holding back is also a human thing. Children and teens are often asked by adults to spill their guts, and they feel like it's an order. It came from an adult, so they have to. They don't want to, but they have to. Sigh.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is important because it speaks for people who are voiceless. For American Indian teens, it describes something familiar. It gives comfort by validating their experiences. For non-American Indians, it opens their eyes to the other. It points out that some things are naively racist. It shows the way to open your heart.

But the educators should be looking at this book too. A boy came to our school. He looked like an Olmec statue sitting in the classroom. He was big and silent. His body language was often unreadable. He was Lakota/Nakota/Dakota or Ojibway, I never learned which. He was initially thrown into Special Ed - EBD - because he didn't do anything. He must've come with some sort of report that said his grades in his old school were miserable and they thought something might be wrong with him. In class, he listened. Sometimes he did his work. Sometimes he didn't. He never turned it in. We tested him. He was super-intelligent. He never got into fights - he clearly wasn't EBD. What was going on? I think Sherman Alexie could've told us. He probably would've told us to throw him into our Gifted-and-Talented program, talk to him, encourage him, let him know we knew he was super smart.

So what was the interview about? It was about minorities going to college. The woman who kept talking over Sherman Alexie was Asian and she was angry because some Asian kids had been told we aren't taking you at this college because we have lots of Asian kids. We want a diverse student population. Sure, if I were Asian that would get me mad, but perhaps what the schools were really trying to say is affirmative action and outreach isn't needed to get Asians to college anymore. Other minorities have it harder than you. Sherman Alexie didn't get to say much, but he asked her, have you seen the Indian kids in those schools? You haven't. Because there aren't any. He didn't even get to say what he said clearly in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. They might want to go to college, but their parents haven't. No one in their family has gone. They don't think it is even possible. So, I ask the educators this - it isn't a new question - educators talk about it a lot, at least in the school I work at - how do you get a kid who is plenty smart but believes college is as impossible as walking on Saturn to have confidence in themselves and live up to their potential?
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
I have been dragging my feet on reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie for some time. I thought the book was being over-hyped, so many rave reviews - how could it be that good? Well, after reading this book I understand. Yes, it is that good.

With rich, dark humor
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Sherman Alexie paints life on the Rez. Perfectly capturing the voice of Arnold Spirit Jr. we learn of the trials and tribulations of growing up Indian. Enhanced by the wonderful cartoon drawings of Ellen Forney, this truly is a book that brings both smiles and tears as we read of the life of a contemporary Indian boy trying to improve himself and break away from the sad legacy that so many Native North Americans fall plight to.

Every character on these pages rings true. I particularly thought his best friend Rowdy was an exceptional character and his struggle to accept Junior’s decision to break free of the reservation was both poignant and realistic.

Wonderfully written, the author uses humor and honesty to tell his quirky story of how one boy forces himself to leave the safe cocoon of the reservation and take that first step into a wider world in hopes of a better future. I highly recommend The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
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LibraryThing member beserene
The other night, some friends and I were at our local independent bookstore, Schuler Books, picking up giver boxes for World Book Night 2012. The store had extras, and we volunteered to take some to give away in addition to the books we had originally selected. One of those extra boxes contained
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Sherman Alexie's 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian', which I knew of but had never read. Today I read it. And now I wish I'd had this book when I was younger, because it is one of those books that changes your perception of the world.

Blurbs about this book tell you that you'll laugh and cry. I actually did. What's more, I sat back -- more than once -- and simply said "Wow". What can I tell you to make that sound like more than empty praise? I could tell you that this is a first-person narrative about an American Indian teenager making a personal transition from living without hope on the Spokane reservation to experiencing the larger world in new ways, but that summation hardly does it justice. While reading this, I felt as though I inhabited the mind of Junior/Arnold -- or perhaps his narrative inhabited me. The narration is so personal and so pitch perfectly in tune with youth, grief, confusion, transformation... Though simple and direct (as it should be, considering the character's voice), the story's language impresses with its rich emotional resonance. I have to fall back on those words, the standard language of the reviewer, because there simply isn't sufficient expression for the emotional purity that the book conveys. I did cry. I did laugh. Out loud. There it is.

The moments that made me step back and say "wow" were often simple moments. There is a beautiful scene--in which our main character and his school mate are looking at the array of books in their small school library--which culminates with the idea that "the world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know." For our main character, that is a big and brilliant new thought that provokes a "wow" from him; for me, it is a big and brilliant thought that directly articulates one of the motivating feelings of my life, more perfectly than I ever could, and it elicited the same reaction.

Not every moment of this book evokes philosophical reflection. Much of it is filled with the authentic idiocy of the teenage boy. Even more of it is filled with hard images of poverty, pain, and death. It moves so quickly that one hardly has time to process one emotional tumult before the next begins. But that is real, too. In the end, we the readers have lived one academic year in the main character's life, but it feels like much more than that. I suspect that this one will stay with me for a long time. And I am extraordinarily glad that I will shortly have the privilege of giving it away to others -- because this is a book that people need to read.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
I read because LT member Berly made me, and of course I always do as I am told.


I've never been an Alexie fan. I don't like his precious, picky prose telling such whopping fat lies. I do like this book. I like it a lot. It's as good as I have read, storytelling-wise, and it's not precious or
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picky in its writing (most of the time). Some parts, like Ted the white billionaire at a funeral, are reversions to the tropes I've disliked most, but on the whole I can't recommend this compact, graceful book highly enough.

It's an irony that Alexie's outsider is so universal as to speak loudly to me, child of privilege by skin color, social class, economic status, and to dig sharply into my painful places in service of pointing out our common human experiences, instead of making me feel like a voyeur or tourist (really, aree those different things?) as I suspect he intended to do.

But perhaps I am a little bit cynical when it comes to Alexie's writing. I read this book, due tomorrow, because (as I mentioned earlier) Berly made me. She gets three gold stars for making me aware, again again always again, that judgment is best left to judges and discernment requires seeing, not just looking.
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LibraryThing member Crazymamie
One thing that I liked about this book is that the characters all ring true - not always the case when an adult sets out to portray teenagers. Arnold Spirit, known to his friends as Junior, is growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Even among his own people he is a loser - born with water on
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the brain, the surgery to drain off the fluid caused brain damage that resulted in physical disabilities. He has vision impairment that can be corrected with the "ugly, thick, black plastic" glasses provided by Indian Health Services, seizures, a stutter and a lisp.

"You wouldn't think that there is anything life threatening about speech impediments, but let me tell you, there is nothing more dangerous than being a kid with a stutter and a lisp."

He spends a lot of his time getting beat up and being harassed. The bright spot in his life is that he has a best friend named Rowdy that often sticks up for him. Rowdy has his own troubles, but fitting in is not one of them. To release steam and pass the time (it is safer to stay in his room than to venture outside and get beaten up or picked on), Junior draws cartoons.

"I draw because words are too unpredictable. I draw because words are too limited....when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it. So I draw because I want to talk to the world. And I want the world to pay attention to me."

Where everything takes a wicked turn is when he is given a geometry textbook that once belonged to his mother - the school on the reservation cannot afford new updated textbooks, and so it continues to use the old ones. This is the last straw for Junior who loves to learn more than anything else.

"I grabbed my book and opened it up. I wanted to smell it. I wanted to kiss it. Yes, kiss it. That's right, I am a book kisser. Maybe that's kind of perverted or maybe it's just romantic and highly intelligent. But my lips and I stopped short when I saw this written on the inside front cover: THIS BOOK BELONGS TO AGNES ADAMS. ...Well let me tell you. Agnes Adams is my mother. MY MOTHER! And Adams is her maiden that means I was staring at a geometry book that was at least thirty years older than I was."

Junior comes up with a plan to transfer to the school in Reardan, "the rich white farm town that sits in the wheat fields exactly twenty-two miles from the rez. And it's a hick town, I suppose, filled with farmers and rednecks and racist cops who stop every Indian that drives through." While lacking in ambience and a warm welcome, what Reardan does have is one of the top schools in the state. As Junior sets his sights and his mind on Reardan, he will become even more of an outcast on the reservation because now he will not just be a loser, he will also be seen as a traitor.

"I was the only kid, white or Indian, who knew that Charles Dickens wrote 'A Tale of Two Cities'. And let me tell you, we Indians were the worst of times and those Reardan kids were the best of times. Those kids were magnificent. They knew everything. And they were beautiful. They were beautiful and smart. They were beautiful and smart and epic. They were filled with hope. I don't know if hope is white. But I do know that hope for me is like some mythical creature."

Arnold Spirit is funny and poignant and irreverent and his journey will break your heart one moment and make you laugh out loud the next - this is the best kind of book, the kind that changes how you think about things. Life is not always fair, but it is always filled with possibility. What I loved about Arnold Spirit is that while he might not understand hope, he is filled with the possibility of it and he reaches for it at every opportunity.
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LibraryThing member lisab818
Junior, a high-school freshman, tells us his hilarious and poignant story of growing up on an Indian Reservation. The novel is quick, light, and humorous, while touching on many complex themes including poverty, bullying, death, and racism. Junior learns about himself and his culture by becoming
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brave enough to do the unthinkable- go to school off of the reservation.

This book does contain adult language and sexual humor, making it more appropriate for an older audience.

Classroom uses: fitting in, perseverance, death, cultural differences and awareness, friendship, self-discovery, modern Native Americans, poverty, understanding others
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
Well deserving of the National Book Award, this is a fantastic work.

Junior (Arnold Spirit) is many things. He is an insecure 14 year old; He is a cartoonist; He is smart; He is funny; He is talented AND He is an American Indian living in poverty on a reservation.

He is a child of an alcoholic father
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who loves him. He is the product of strong women who influence him.

He is beat up daily because he is small. He is not so good looking and he was born with too much water on the brain.

The story is told from the diary of hydrocephalic Junior who courageously seeks a path that can lead to a better life.

Leaving the reservation school, he transfers to a school 22 miles from home. Perceived as a traitor by others on the reservation and finding it difficult to fit in with the richer folk of the new school, Junior feels half Indian in one place and half white in the other.

The story is so poetically written that I hated the book to end. Some passages are so incredibly sad that I wanted to cry and yet the over all feeling is not of depression but of hope. Written in a humorous, witty and poignant manner, this book is captivating from the first page till the last.

Thus far, this is one of my top reads for 2009.
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LibraryThing member LizMBradley
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian tells the tale of a witty, smart and talented young American Indian by the name of Arnold Spirit Jr. Junior, as he is called in the book, is and incredibly talented cartoonist, and this helps him to make sense of the world around him. He decides that
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he is not happy with the education that he is receiving and transfers to the all white high school off the reservation in a town called Reardan. While in this school, he struggles with his identity as he is an outsider in the town. A lot of this is also due to the people back home on the Rez calling him a traitor. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to have good laugh. I would also recommend this book to an older YA reader (14-18 years old) because that is the age where those students are trying to make sense of their own lives and who they are. I think that this book would help them immensely with that inner struggle. This book was awesome! I'll definitely be reading it again.
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LibraryThing member Chandra672
What an interesting and inspiring books for young people! Junior works so hard to gets everything he wants in life, and it pays off through the results shown within his stories. I think this book, while a bit adult at times, would be great for upper middle school/lower high school age students.
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They definitely need to be able to have a sense of maturity. This book would open students' eyes to the different lifestyles people lead between communities (even if they are 22 miles a part), and have them consider how to treat people who look different than them. This book also teaches persistence to go the extra mile no matter who is telling you that you should not do it because of the extra work.
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LibraryThing member kellyn
Sherman Alexie explores questions of identity, belonging and community in this semi-autobiographical novel. Arnold (Junior) spirit escapes the nearly-inevitable fate of his fellow Spokane tribe members because he is very bright and because he transfers from the reservation high school to the
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off-reservation white school. Is he still a member of his tribe in doing this? Where, if anywhere, does he fit in? Much like the immigrant child who outdistances his parents in learning and achievement, Junior gains much and loses much. His choices are costly and irrevocable.
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LibraryThing member shelf-employed
Alcoholism, bullying, bigotry, racism, violence, masturbation, bulimia, obscenities – they all show up here in Sherman Alexie’s newest book, guaranteeing that it will be controversial; but yet – the book’s message is positive, funny, real, and not the least bit didactic. Reviews note that
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the character of Junior is somewhat autobiographical, explaining the protagonist’s honesty and believability. He is part Arnold-part Junior, part White-part Indian, part geek-part athlete, and an endearing mix of part chicken-part warrior. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which is literally and figuratively animated by the hilarious cartoon illustrations of Ellen Forney.

I don’t know if Junior’s views on the nature of Indian life and reservations are widely held within the culture, but I am pleased to see that The Absolutely True Diary… won the inaugural American Indian Youth Literature Award for young adults. Knowing that the title has the blessing of those within the Indian culture is yet another reason to recommend this book. Junior’s ultimate realization that he has a rightful and natural place within many “tribes,” and that each of us must follow our own inner calling, is a fitting end to this coming-of-age novel of a “part-time Indian.”
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LibraryThing member lynnm
While this is a very dark book as far as young adult literature goes, it's a fantastic read with a very compelling protagonist. Arthur Spirit "Junior" is a Spokane Indian living on a reservation where the future holds only the promises of alcoholism, violence, and most likely an early death. Born
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with many medical issues, Junior manages to overcome them all and dreams of something better for himself. He convinces his parents to let him attend the nearest "white" school where he finds himself even more of an outcast. But despite the multitude of things working against him, Junior never loses hope.

This book does not shy away from the misery that life on the reservation entails. Most adults have a drinking problem. Violence is prevalent. Junior is often the target of bullies. His family is barely functional, his father an alcoholic, money always in short supply. Told in any other way, this story would almost be unbearable because of the hardships that Junior endures.

But Junior approaches his world with a mixture of humor, acceptance, and determination that he can have something different. The book is sprinkled with Junior's drawings and cartoons, illustrating his take on the life he's been handed.

In the end, this is not an easy read. But it's well worth it because Junior never loses hope or his faith that things can get better.
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LibraryThing member reader1009
teen fiction; coming of age/leaving the Rez. Now I know why this is so highly acclaimed (I also know of the brief discussion of "teenage boy activities" to which some parents might object--and I would still tell these parents to give the book a chance.) Alexie's (tamed down) unique voice speaks to
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teens in a way that I didn't think possible for a book that speaks about cultural differences (and difficulties).
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LibraryThing member BrianDewey
This is a surprisingly powerful young adult novel. Alexie looks unflinchingly at some of the worst there is in life -- extreme poverty, alcoholism, rascism, death, and loss of hope. And in this barren emotional wasteland, he gives us warm & funny characters who love one another and manage to find
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joy and happiness in life. There's more wisdom and emotional power in this book than in much "serious" fiction.

Plus, the book is wicked funny.

Alexie's had one story turned into a movie before ("Reservation Blues"). I hope they can turn this book into a movie. I think it would be incredible.
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LibraryThing member MrsHillReads
What a great book! Loved the western feel. It explored what it is like to live on a reservation and what it takes to escape the failure associated with it. Seems like this book might appeal to the same person who loved "Stuck in Neutral". The cover isn't too appealing to the YA set.
LibraryThing member cestovatela
Sherman Alexie is fast becoming one of my favorite authors, and this young adult novel sums up all the reasons why. Junior, the main character, is a high school freshman who has something no one else on his reservation possesses: hope. To keep it, he will have to do something no one on "the rez"
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has ever done: leave behind the stultifying Indian high school to study in the white, affluent town nearby. Not unexpectedly, his decision comes at a price. Scrawny and epileptic, he had never fit in on the reservation; now, though, he becomes an outsider who's less than Indian. Ironically, at his new school, being a poor Indian defines him. The novel is mostly Junior's reckoning with the injustice and tragedy that surrounds him -- both the ones inflicted by history on the whole of the Native American people, and the wounds his fellow Indians inflict upon themselves.

What I particularly admired about this novel was the way that every single character, whether Native American or white, was a three-dimensional human being. Through the eyes of Junior, whose outsider status gives him both wisdom and compassion, Alexie makes each character sympathetic in some small way. Even when we can't approve of the way they behave, we understand the deeper hurt behind their actions.

This novel is classified as young adult because it's narrated by a teenager, not because the themes or writing style are less complex than a book for adults. I feel like everyone should read this; it's easy to get through, but it offers a much-needed glimpse into a rarely represented world, and it accomplishes the rare feat of examining prejudice without demonizing anyone. I am certain this will go on my list of best reads of 2009.
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LibraryThing member WittyreaderLI
This book was a very touching book about a Native American boy who lives on a "rez" and tires of the treatment he gets from his peers. He decides to go to the all white school, and this decision changes his life. The characters are realistic and touching, and the main character develops as the book
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progresses. I don't like basketball in stories, so that is what made me give this book a four.
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LibraryThing member MickyFine
Arnold Spirit Junior has lived on the rez his entire fourteen years. So have his parents and his grandparents and every other person he knows. So when Junior decides to break the mold and go to high school, not at one of the rez schools, but to the (white) high school in Reardan, everything gets
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shaken up. He loses his best friend Rowdy, most of the Indians on the rez hate him, and he's left trying to figure out who he is. In the midst of this identity crisis, Junior also has to deal with several family dramas that make everything more difficult.

Alexie's novel is sharply witty while dealing with the difficult issues that surround life for First Nations people. He is unflinching in describing life on the reservation and the culture. But while race is a major issue in the novel and for Junior, the narrative itself focuses on many of the same issues of any other YA novel: navigating social groups, first romances, and the like. What I most enjoyed about the novel was Junior's sarcastic humour which comes out in both the text and his cartoons (illustrations by Ellen Forney). Particularly admirable, is Alexie's decision to occasionally have major plot events occur within a cartoon rather than the text itself, which as an author must be a difficult choice. Funny but also thought-provoking with reflections teen life, race, and the meaning of hope.
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
This is Alexie's first YA novel, a semi-autobiographical story of Junior who grows up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, but who is encouraged to leave and go to an all-white high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. I am already a fan of Alexie's novels and his poetry, so it's
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not surprising that his foray into YA would be a good experience for me. The themes are very much in the vein of his other writings, but the narrator is much sweeter and more hopeful that "normal." Alexie has done very well for someone from the Rez, but he will never forget or be romantic about his past experiences and will forever tell the truth about the tragedy that is most American Indian life. What I really love about Alexie's writing is his humor, though - even in the darkest of times, his humor will shine through and it's a bonding tool; I'm as far from being American Indian as I possibly can, but I can identify with urge to laugh at human misery in general and my own misery in particular. This is a great novel, for young and old, and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone.
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LibraryThing member sharmon05
What a wonderful book! The plot is terrific and it tells the story and complex cultural differences in a way that is easier to understand for Young Adult readers.
There are many difficult issues presented in this novels that could be used for excellent class discussions. There may need to be some
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precautions because of some of the serious and sexual content, but approached correctly this book can be used in an excellent literature class.
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LibraryThing member phoenixcomet
An incredibly fast read, Sherman Alexie's book will resonate with any teenager who is attempting to break out of his/her family background and make something of themselves. Painted as having "water on the brain" and incredibly awkward, the main character draws cartoons as a form of expression and
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makes the bold step of leaving the reservation to attend school 22 miles away at a small white high school where he can discover "hope" and have a better future for himself.
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LibraryThing member cvlibrarian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a realistic story about a boy named Arnold Spirit living on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington. It takes place over the course of one year, and involves the occurrences of Arnold’s daily life and interactions with his best friend Rowdy,
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his family and a group of students with which he forms a relationship. In the beginning of the story, Junior, as he is called by his tribe, feels he would get a better education at a school located outside of the “rez”. He feels trapped by his own people and often mentions his hunger for a better life. Junior’s family, like so many on the reservation, is plagued with alcoholism and poverty and this propels Junior to attend a school twenty-two miles away from his home on the reservation. His parents although reluctant, agree to let him. The issues that arise from alcoholism, money, and race present obstacles for Junior, yet he finds a way to keep attending Rearden High School, obtain a coveted position on the basketball team and redefine his relationship with his best friend Rowdy. This novel deals with many issues teenagers face today such as peer acceptance, family relationships, and death, yet does not get overly involved in the emotional aspects of them. A great addition to the simple, but thoughtful dialect is the narrator’s illustrational display of his emotions throughout the book.
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LibraryThing member ConanTheLibr
I loved this book to pieces! A largely autobiographical bildungsroman (I've always wanted to use that word!). Junior, our hero, is growing up on the Spokane reservation, surrounded by a loving, quirky set of relatives, many of whom live in the clutches of alcoholism. He decides to leave the Rez
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school and enroll in a nearby public school when he receives a textbook at the beginning of the semester which still has his mother's name in it. Alexie manages to write with a mixture of compassion, pride, embarrassment, and anger over circumstances. He doesn't ask the reader to feel sorry for Junior, and while there is certainly much realism there are also hysterically funny descriptions of teen angst and shenanigans. Ultimately, one is left with a sense of self-pride and hope on Junior's part.
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LibraryThing member FionaCat
I had never read anything by Alexie but I will seek out his other books after reading this one. In other hands, written less deftly and without the right touch of humor, this story would be maudlin and depressing. Truly, the plight of the modern Indian living "on the rez" is one that isn't seen by
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most non-Indians. Without the sardonically humorous voice of Arnold Spirit, the narrator, it would be hard to deal with the heart-breaking tragedy that is daily life on the rez. And that is the point. The only way Arnold can cope with his life is to take refuge in humor and his cartoons. If he does not, he will become as defeated as the rest of his fellow tribe members.

Arnold, born with water on the brain, has suffered health problems all his life. He stutters, lisps, and "looks like a capital L" when seen from the side because of his skinny build and extra large feet. The kids on the rez have always picked on him and beat him up. When a teacher urges him to transfer to the all-white high school in a nearby town, Arnold surprises himself with the courage to do just that. It is hard, but life has always been hard for him, and he copes in his own inimitable way.

In time he makes friends at school while at the same time losing his grandmother and other family members to senseless deaths. The root of all evil on the rez, it seems, is alcohol and Arnold is clear sighted enough to see it. His only hope of escaping the vicious cycle of alcoholism and poverty is to leave the rez and make his way in the white world.

Poignant and hilarious at the same time, this is a wonderful book. Highly recommended.
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0871138018 / 9780871138019
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