The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

In his first book for young adults, 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 acclaimed artist 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.

11 thoughts on “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

  1. Ned Y says:

    “Cinderfella” not only goes to the Ball, but rocks, rolls, and Dominates the Court! This book pulled me into it with memories of my junior high school days of feeling awkward, different, and seemingly untalented. I loved the characteristics and qualities he wove into the pattern of his sister, grandmother, and other family members and his best friend. This book if truly a wonderful read with a most interesting insight into the plight of Native Americans.

  2. Emily Cunningham says:

    I really enjoyed this book. There were parts that could be considered “offensive”, yet it is true to what goes on in high schools. Throughout the book, there are ideas and themes that many kids can associate with such as bullying, death, friendship, family values, and the hardships of growing up. I think that high school boys will really appreciate and identify with this story because they will find themselves reflected in some way in Junior.

  3. Marie LeJeune says:

    Alexie’s first young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian, delves deeply into the issues and themes of straddling cultural (as well as racial and socioeconomic) divides. In this loosely autobiographical tale, Alexie presents protagonist “Junior,”a budding cartoonist, who leaves his school on the reservation in the hopes of receiving a stronger education, while also realizing that his cultural values and identity are not appreciated or recognized in his new “white” school off the reservation. (As Junior ironically notes in the novel, the only “Indian” in his new school other than himself is the school mascot.)

    Alexie writes with wry, ironic wit that has the reader in both laughter and tears. His compelling ability to tell a story and to create characters whose voice rings so clearly through the pages is evident here as it is in his best-selling contemporary adult fiction. I am hopeful that Alexie will continue writing for young people as every teacher and secondary student I’ve worked with who has read this novel has found it to be both remarkably entertaining and hauntingly memorable.

    An additional,rich layer is added to the novel through its illustrated nature–Junior’s own cartoons (as created by illustrator Ellen Forney) both figuratively and literally depict the divided identity Junior grapples with throughout the novel. As a reader I was remarkably impressed with Forney’s artistic and textual nuances; these illustrations deeply complexify the already well-developed characters of the novel. The novel then, shares many of the characteristics of the best and most sophisticated picture books, in that the illustrations deeply enhance the reader’s experience of the story and create their own layers of meaning and “reading.” Alexie’s words and Forney’s illustrations combine to create, what for me, is an unforgettable novel.

  4. tabitha kline says:

    I thought this story is one that needs to be told. It may be ‘in your face’ with stereotypical descriptions, but it rings true for many Native Americans growing up on a reservation. My husband works with a whole crew of Jemez guys and these are some of the issues the tribe deals with.

  5. Theresa says:

    Celina, I agree that society has a narrow view of Native Americans and do not really consider that they want to succeed and have the drive to do just that as much as the next person. He felt storngly about leaving the reservation to better himself regardless of how people treated him.

  6. Salina says:

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian portrays the life and culture viewed and expressed by a young Native American boy who is struggling to balance his life between two cultures. The book is filled with stereotypical descriptions of an Indian (e.g., drunk indian, economic conditions,hitch-hikers, relationships, and anger management problems) and of white people (e.g., rich, big homes, and filled with “hope”). Although it may be funny for some readers, it may be offensive to others and may give a false notion of the differing cultures.

  7. Celina Lopez says:

    After reading a couple of articles about flawed representations of Native Americans, I can’t help but supporting this novel even more. I think society tends to have narrowed views of Native Americans. Junior is not only Native American, but he also has health issues. These authentic representations of how main stream society and communities view people who are different from themselves are important representations to have in the literacy world.

  8. Celina Lopez says:

    I thought this was a very engaging novel. Junior dealt with so many horrific issues in his young life. The oppression and injustices he faced were overwhelming. I thought this novel was forthright and at times rough with the vocabulary being used. I think it’s a great story to engage critical literacy as long as the young adult readers aren’t too young.

    I liked how Sherman Alexie used humor in his story. I saw an interview of him a while back and he was just as funny! His struggles to overcome his personal obstacles and injustices amazed me.

  9. Jennifer Gray says:

    This book, told in the first-person, portrays a teenage Native American boy trying to overcome obstacles that have been his birth right. Poverty, alcoholism and lack of quality education is the destiny of the rez children, according to Junior. On Junior’s first day of high school the textbooks are passed out and he finds his mother’s name in the front of the book. Junior realizes the textbooks used on the rez are at least thirty years old. Fueled by something deep inside, this normally docile teen gets so angry he chucks the book right at his teacher, breaking his nose and awarding him suspension. Junior is so dissappointed in a system that cared so little about Native American education they don’t even rate current textbooks. This is the beginning of a journey to suceed and an amazing story of an “underdog” who does just that. I absolutely loved this book! I laughed, cried, pondered over the unfairness of Junior’s life, and felt amazed at his determination. Once I started reading this book I could not stop. I will recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it. Please enlighten yourself and read about someone else’s struggles, than revel in the inner drive that made this boy choose a different path. It will make you realize how easy some of us have it and how much we take for granted. Don’t worry it is very funny in some parts so you will enjoy a good laugh too!

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