The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie
Reading Range: 4.0 (AR Book Finder)
Interest Range: Young Adult (Follett Library Resources)
Plot:  This story is about a teenage boy named Junior, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junior is a cartoonist and he draws about his experiences. He was born with medical problems.  Junior decides he wants a good education so he chooses to go to the white school off the reservation. He was picked on before but now it gets worse.  The Indians are mad him for leaving and now the whites are not too fond of him either. He has to find a way to survive in his new school.
Review: Although this book is at a reading level of 4.0, it is really written for high school students.  It deals with teenage issues like identity, sex and drugs and alcohol and profanit. Sherman is very funny. I went to an author’s talk he did a number of years ago in Buffalo, New York and he was hilarious. He does present reservation life in a very negative light. Truthfully, there are many problems on reservation and they do need to be address. At sametime, there are some good things about reservation life. This is one of the few popular books written about life on the reservation and people might assume that it is the same for all Native people not realizing that we all have different experiences.
Additional Info: This book can be pretty raunchy because of the language and Junior likes to talk abut mastrubuation a lot. Other people seem to take issue with the fact that a lot of the characters around Junior die due to drugs and alcohol.  Honestly, there are a lot of deaths on Indian reservations due to drugs and alcohol so that part is realistic.
Main Characters:

Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) –Junior is a cartoonist who documents his life. He had several medical issues as a child and still has problems. He is going to an off-reservation school.

Junior’s Mom (Agnes Adams) –Junior considers his mother one of the smartest people he knows. He often wonders what her life would be like if she did not live on the reservation.  She is a former alcoholic.

Junior’s Dad (Arnold Spirit, Sr.) –He is a talented musician but he is an alcoholic.

Mr. P –He is a geometry teacher at the reservation school. He encourages Junior to leave the reservation.

Rowdy –He was Junior’s best friend before Junior start to the white school. He is abused by his father. He fights and is considered very tough. Junior spends the book trying to get Rowdy to forgive him.

Mary –Junior’s sister. She is also known as Mary Run Away. She lives in their basement after high school. She secretly writes romance novels.

Gordy –He becomes Junior’s friend while at Reardan. He teaches Junior many things about life and he calls him out when he needs to.

Penelope –Junior’s crush at his new school. They start to “date.” She is bulimic.

Junior’s Grandma (Grandma Spirit) –Grandma Spirit provides Junior advice when he needs it. She believed in tolerance and accepting people for who they are. She travels to different pow wows.

Theme: Death, Man struggles against society, Overcoming adversity

Bibliographic Info:

Alexie, Sherman . (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian.   New York, NY: Hachette  Book Group.



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