THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN: A Review

Published in 2007 by author Sherman Alexie, this YA novel was our Third Tuesday Book Club selection for the month of May.  The group’s discussion is tomorrow night. Other than some pretty rough language (but then that’s the way some teenagers talk), the book was a good read.  It was funny, sad, heartbreaking, uplifting–all at one time. The author is also a cartoonist and a poet, and the story is filled with insightful cartoons and poetic expressions in places.  It is the story of a boy who overcomes poverty, a medical condition from birth, fear, and loneliness as he comes of age.

The story is well told, and characters range from stereotypes to unique individuals. Arnold Spirit (his Reardon School name) aka Junior (his reservation name) is a protagonist who puts his “raw emotion” out there for the reader to experience. Rowdy, his best friend since earliest childhood is his protector and confidant, which makes his refusal to go off the reservation to the “white school” with Junior/Arnold and his hate directed towards him all the worse. Gordy is his new, nerdy friend at the white Reardon high school, and Penelope, the gorgeous white girl becomes Junior/Arnold’s girlfriend.  The clash between the characters is more than troubling to the protagonist. His family, a alcoholic but loving father, a smart mother, and a spiritual, tolerant grandmother round out the cast of characters.

The novel gives insights into Native American folklore and superstition as well as “Reservation Philosophy” and thought. For a boy born with hydro-encephalitis and who has “been to 42 funerals by the time he is fourteen,” there is a lot to overcome. The humor is typically adolescent male humor and raunchy at times, but not to the point of offending.

I do not know if I would recommend this book to a younger teenager, but a young adult with his/her “head on straight” might really enjoy this book. It will be interesting to hear what older adults thought of it tomorrow night.

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Author: Rae Longest

This year, I will have been a member of AAUW (American Association of University Women) for fifty years, a life time member (which means my fellow AAUW members will begin to pay my annual dues. (ha ha) In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015 and went on from there (See "Introduction",first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I am currently teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This makes my 27th year there after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

2 thoughts on “THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN: A Review”

    1. All of the “women of a certain age” and the retired male M.D., our only man, liked the book immensely! The coarse language bothered some of us some, but that’s the way some high schoolers talk. (Those who had teen grandkids knew. One whose son was a principal said the book was very popular at his school, and that some places (not near where I live) had it on required reading lists. It, like Dixie Dupree, was a hard read in places; one woman, a primary school librarian said she was afraid we’d all find it too depressing and sad, but most of us admired the protagonist as a real overcomer!

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