Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


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Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
Paperback, 230 Pages
Published September 2007



Summary: Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.


I was assigned this book to read for my YA Fiction Writing class, and I had never heard about it before. So at first, I was unsure of what to expect. I didn't know much of what this book was going to be tackling and dealing with, but I went into it eagerly because I had already learned that this story was semi-autobiographical and I knew that Sherman Alexie was a successful writer, so I was eager to get a glimpse into his life growing up on an Indian reservation, even if it only came through the story in bits and pieces. 

As the summary explains, Junior has a lot of problems. Not only is he small and mousy, but he was born with fluid in his brain and has a history of a lot of medical issues. Which makes him a target among his peers at the reservation, because we all know how everyone likes to pick on the small guy. And then things get worse when he decides that he wants to attend an all-white school outside of the reservation -- because now, in addition to being the weird runt of the group, he is branded as a traitor. 

So the story follows Junior as he attends this new school, meets a lot of people (both good and bad), is the subject to a pretty prevalent amount of racism, and fights for his chance to fit in and make people see him as someone cool and worthy of their time, rather than that poor Indian kid who has to walk to school some days because their car doesn't have enough gas. 

What I really liked about this book was the humor. The book isn't really told in a "dear diary" sort of format, with different entries and all of that, but scattered throughout the story are drawings that are meant to be understood as Junior's (because he is a cartoonist), and there are even some fourth-wall breaks where it becomes clear that Junior is addressing the reader rather than whoever he is surrounded by in the story. And there were so many different quips and frank little jokes that had me laughing so hard I had to stop and share them with my roommate, and even take some Snapchats to send to my boyfriend and best friends. 

Another thing that I enjoyed about this book was how many different topics it managed to cover in just a short 230 pages. This book discussed everything from medical issues, to broken families, to alcoholism, to racism, to love, to eating disorders, friendships, families, relationships, and everything in between. I was impressed that all those different facets managed to fit in so naturally and not feel forced, and it was really impressive to see. I'm curious to see which parts of Alexie's life shone through in this story, especially because there were several pretty awesome moments, as well as some very devastating ones as well. This book kept me on the edge of my seat with its ups and downs, and I never lost interest in the story for a single second from start to finish. 

Overall, I enjoyed The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It had me laughing at all the right moments, and feeling shocked or sympathetic at those proper moments, too. I'm glad that this book was assigned for my class because I got a chance to explore something that I may not have noticed otherwise, and I ended up flying through the book and being hooked by the story, which was something that I was not expecting, although it turned out to be pretty delightful. :-) 


 

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