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.

Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

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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