The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

 

Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN: 978-0316013680. Hardcover: $16.99. Also available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook format.
Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2007), American Indian Library Association Best Young Adult Book (2008), and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (2008). Also on School Library Journal’s “Best Books of 2007” list and Young Adult Library Association’s 2008 “Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults”.

Life on the rez isn’t easy. And for 14-year-old Arnold “Junior” Spirit it’s even more difficult than normal. He’s not cool or tough. In fact, he was born with too many teeth and water on his brain, causing some brain damage nobody will ever let him forget. He has glasses and a lisp, plus he’s dirt poor. But he’s also smart and can draw. Junior copes with his life by drawing cartoons. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they help him get a grip what’s going on. Sometimes they provide a way to honestly describe his life. Sometimes they’re windows to his mind. And sometimes they help him cope with grief.

In his absolutely true (and sometimes unbelievable) diary, Junior deals with the harsh realities of racism, alcoholism, addiction, sexuality, eating disorders, violence, poverty, and death. But amid all those ugly things Junior begins to discover his potential. Transferring to a new school outside the reservation opens up new problems, but also new opportunities. Follow along as Junior learns the meaning of bravery and discovers how to be himself, even if he’s only a part-time Indian.


Bookventurer’s Quest Note: This book is frequently challenged, which means people have often tried to have it removed from schools and libraries because they object to its content. In fact, it was the #1 most frequently challenged book in the US in 2014. While I don’t believe it’s right to completely remove a book from the shelf or deny anyone the right to read it, I get why people have been upset. This book has some really harsh language and talks about intense topics like violent bullying, racism, and substance abuse. Some readers will find that the things discussed are part of their everyday life, while for others it may be their first exposure to those topics – and that can be difficult to process.
Because of that, I’d recommend the book for more mature readers, and suggest having a discussion about the book with friends and/or adult-type-people (like a librarian, parent, or teacher). That being said, the lessons Junior learns are even more potent because of the hardships he goes through, and there’s a lot to be gained from reading it if you’re ready. Prepare yourselves accordingly bookventurers, and proceed with caution and courage.

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