The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

[amazon_image id=”0316013684″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_image]Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel [amazon_link id=”0316013684″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link] is the story of Arnold Spirit, Jr., better known as Junior, a fourteen-year-old Spokane Indian living on the reservation and dreaming of a better life. When he begins high school on the reservation and opens his geometry book only discover his mother’s name written the book (it had been her geometry book, too), he becomes enraged at the poverty surrounding him and the way he must live. His teacher suggests he go to the white high school in a nearby small town off the reservation so that he will have a shot at a better education. He decides to do it. He must win the acceptance of his white peers at the high school and contend with his friends’ belief that he is a traitor for going to school off the Rez.

Neil Gaiman’s blurb on the back cover reads:

Excellent in every way, poignant and really funny and heartwarming and honest and wise and smart… I have no doubt that in a year or so it’ll both be winning awards and being banned.

In fact, it was recently removed from the library shelves and curriculum of a local Georgia system (for “study,” ostensibly). Whether the book will survive the challenge or not is up in the air, but people who pick out a couple of things to be angry about in these books without looking at the context make me so angry. One of the complaints the book received in this recent challenge is that it’s “anti-Christian.” Junior is mad at God after suffering the deaths of two people close to him in senseless accidents within a matter of weeks. Many people going through the grieving process are mad at God for a while. And they may say things that indicate that anger. If the worst thing a kid in Junior’s shoes does is imply Jesus once passed gas, then I would like to think we could all have a sense of humor and admit it’s true. All human beings do that, right?

At any rate, I think this book is great for students in middle and high school to read. It’s funny, even when Junior is describing the tragedy of living with an alcoholic father or losing his best friend, he manages to make you smile and even laugh out loud. More than that, however, the book is perfect for examining the big question of identity that teens grapple with. Junior has more trouble than most teens with this question because he knows he can’t reach his goals on the reservation, but he also feels like he’s betraying the people he loves by going. Junior’s cartoons, sprinkled throughout the text, illustrate his complicated feelings and add to the story.

I have to say I agree completely with Neil Gaiman’s assessment of the book.

Rating: ★★★★★

Full disclosure: I checked this book out of my school library.

2 thoughts on “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

  1. I disagree with the fact that its should be banned because its "anti-christian". I read the book myself and highly disagree with this accusation. I believe that people are just bringing religion as a factor just to create conflict. Just because there is that one incident when Junior is mad at God doesn't mean he's anti-christian its an example of reality. People do become mad at God at times in their life when they are stressed and discouraged. I believe that Alexie correctly addresses this.

    1. I totally agree. Junior had lost two people he cared about in quick succession, and to be honest, it wasn't even that angry. But that kind of complaint is a great example of typical out-of-context Bible-thumping book banners. And though I'm a Christian myself, banning a book because it is critical of religion or "anti-religious" in any way is a dangerous path to walk down.

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