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184 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN
"Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a 'Tale of Two Cities' than it is just a 'Shining City on a Hill.' "
-- Mario Cuomo, 1984 National Democratic Convention Keynote Address

"It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you...
Published on September 5, 2007 by N. S.

versus
62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Part-Time Lover of Part-Time Indian
Filled with Alexi's trademark beautiful and straightforward prose, Part-Time Indian tells the story of Arnold, a Spokane Indian trying to better his life beyond the confines of his race and his circumstance. This is a moving story filled with wonderful storytelling moments and thrilling scenes. While I finished the book wanting more, which is a good thing, although I also...
Published on March 30, 2008 by J. L. Porter


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184 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, September 5, 2007
By 
N. S. "Richie's Picks" (Sebastopol, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
"Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a 'Tale of Two Cities' than it is just a 'Shining City on a Hill.' "
-- Mario Cuomo, 1984 National Democratic Convention Keynote Address

"It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it.

So opines high school student and sometime cartoonist Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, who is despondent as his father prepares to shoot Arnold's suffering dog because there is no money to pay for a veterinarian's services. But a math teacher -- whose nose is broken when Arnold, in his frustration, angrily throws his generations-old math book --endeavors to change Arnold's sense of helplessness:

" 'You can't give up. You won't give up. You threw that book in my face because somewhere inside you refuse to give up.'
"I didn't know what he was talking about. Or maybe I just didn't want to know.
"Jeez, it was a lot of pressure to put on a kid. I was carrying the burden of my race, you know? I was going to get a bad back from it.
" 'If you stay on this rez,' Mr. P said, 'they're going to kill you. I'm going to kill you. We're all going to kill you. You can't fight us forever.'
" 'I don't want to fight anybody.' I said.
" 'You've been fighting since you were born,' he said. 'You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope.'
"I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply hope by hope.
" 'Where is hope?' I asked. 'Who has hope?'
" 'Son,' Mr. P said. 'You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad reservation.' "

I'd certainly heard of Sherman Alexie. Back in my bookstore days, a young college student with whom I worked spoke of him as a god. But I'd never read any of Alexie's books since he hadn't yet written anything for children or YAs.

THE ABSOLUTE TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is a semi-autobiographical tale by Sherman Alexie, written for teen readers, that is in turns wacked-out, funny, heartbreaking, and jubilant. It is the story of an Indian kid who has survived a precarious infancy and is growing up on a reservation outside Spokane. It is a powerful story of friendship between two teenage guys who have grown up together on the reservation. It is the story of Arnold's journey after he is persuaded by the math teacher to escape the rez school and transfer to a high school 22 miles away.

And it is a tale of two cities.

"So what was I doing in Reardan, whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making me the only other Indian in town?"

THE ABSOLUTE TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN portrays Arnold's struggle through that ninth grade school year to succeed at the high school in Reardan, to which he often has to walk and/or hitch. It could be that Arnold's greatest struggle involves the conflict and guilt that comes from living among the Indian kids and grown-ups he's seemingly left behind on the reservation in order to attain that success.

Arnold's humorous and telling drawings (thanks to artist Ellen Forney), which are "taped" into the diary, significantly bolster the book's boy-charm and permit us to see, in a second dimension, Arnold's view of his world.

"My head was so big that little Indian skulls orbited around it. Some of the kids called me Orbit. And other kids just called me Globe. The bullies would pick me up, spin me in circles, put their finger down on my skull, and say, 'I want to go there'."

I loved hanging out in Arnold World! Sherman Alexie and his quirky, in-your-face, first-person tale of contemporary life on and off the reservation are both important and extremely welcome additions to the world of young adult literature.
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118 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I almost cried a few times and I laughed a lot, October 5, 2007
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For a story about an impoverished teen on an Indian reservation who has an alcoholic father and faces bullies and racism and the deaths of several close relatives, I sure laughed a lot. I loved the written humor and the wonderful cartoons throughout the book, as well as learning something about life on a reservation. I finished this fast-paced book in two days and was sorry to see it end. This is one of my favorite young adult novels of 2007.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arnold Spirit's Spirit Soars, September 24, 2007
TATDOAPTI may be a teen fiction book and I have been out of that awkward phase of life for five years, but I could not resist this story of a contemporary Walter Mitty transplanted in the heart of a Washington reservation. In Sherman Alexie's narrator, there's a boundless energy and a high-strung desire to prove the system--and the world--wrong when it comes to Native Americans.

Arnold (known as Junior) Spirit is an aspiring cartoonist (samples of his work can be found throughout the book) has a plethora of problems: he has medical issues ranging from poor eyesight and a past onset of seizures, one friend, and a troubled yet loving family. His world gets upturned when a teacher tells him to get off the reservation, not figuratively, but psychologically and spiritually. Junior's never had someone inform him of his full potential to be something other than "another troubled drunken Indian," so when the chance comes to transfer to a good school in the middle of a racist town outside his home, Junior leaps at the chance.

While there, Junior struggles with the mere fact that he's a Native American in a sea of white students and teachers; this fact continues to plague him when his friend turns his back on him and his whole reservation thinks he's a sell-out. But Junior, Lord bless him, is determined to make a name for himself, and even finds a little romance, convoluted as it is, and makes a few friends who help him expand his mind and reach his goals.

Narrated like random passages from a journal (hence the title), I have nothing but love for this funny, sweet, and conflicted boy. If he were older, I would totally go out with him. But, since he is a character in a novel, all I can say is he is a wonderful voice for a life that no one notices. Junior brings all the suffering and issues of Native Americans around the US and makes them real while pouring out his heart about his troubles adjusting to two worlds. He had me laughing out loud and wiping my eyes at the same time.

I can't believe this is renowned author Sherman Alexie's first novel for teens! He has such a crisp voice, it's hard not to be pulled into his narrator's world. My only gripe would be that I wanted to know more about Junior's family, especially his beloved grandma (who reminds me a lot of my own). Either way, you'll cheer for Junior throughout the novel. If you don't, I'll have to stick up for him.
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73 of 84 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The reservation called America, May 8, 2000
"Deep in the heart of the heart of every Indian man's heart, he believes he is Crazy Horse," Sherman Alexie writes in "The Toughest Indian in the World," his new collection of renegade short stories. And that might mean, um, you are Custer.
Or it might just mean Alexie wants you to understand the pride and rage behind these nine lyrical, rebellious, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking stories, where Indians find themselves between worlds, between lives, and between loves.
Fiction writers simulate real life, they don't really bottle it. Alexie is one of the best American writers of any color today, but not because he writes about Indians as an Indian. Rather, it's because he observes the multi-colored light of *human* existence through indigenous eyes. His prism is a valuable cultural artifact on this reservation we call America.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meeting "The Toughest Indian in the World", July 12, 2004
I'd been hearing a lot about Sherman Alexie prior to reading this. His work has been talked about frequently, and The New Yorker has selected him as one of the best American fiction writers under 40. As an aspiring writer myself, I decided to pick up one of his books to judge for myself. And I'm glad I did.
In Alexie's collection of short stories, The Toughest Indian in the World, he takes a look at the world from the perspectives of various Native American characters from all walks of life. From Assimilation, the story of an interracial couple, an Indian woman and a white man, trying to wade through societal pressures and cultural differences to rediscover their love for one another, to Dear John Wayne, the amusing and touching story of an elderly Native American woman recounting her alleged, brief love affair with the "real" John Wayne, these stories are about everyday people trying to find their place in this multicultural, yet divided world.
If you have fragile sensibilities, you may find this book a bit overwhelming at times. Many of the stories in this collection deal with controversial subjects such as race and sexuality with a bluntness that can be surprising to say the least. Mr. Alexie writes about these things with such frankness, never treating them with any hint of the shame or stigma often attached to them, that the reader is given the opportunity to explore them from a perspective he or she may not have considered before. Alexie treats them naturally, as normal aspects of our daily lives. And this is how it should be.
I noticed a surrealistic, sometimes tongue-in-cheek quality to Alexie's work. Some stories will leave you with a gentle smile, while others will linger in your mind long after, perhaps causing you to look at the world around you differently. Some of my favorite stories are South By Southwest, which takes us on an odyssey with Seymour, a disillusioned, heterosexual white man desperately searching for excitement and love. In his quest to find them, he holds up a House of Pancakes, demanding one dollar from each of its patrons and a traveling companion who could possibly fall in love with him. Surprisingly, he leaves the restaurant with forty-two dollars and a fat Native American man he dubs "Salmon Boy." The two travel from Spokane, Washington to the state of Arizona on a "non-violent killing spree," all the while exploring the possibility of finding true love with one another.
The very next story, The Sin Eaters, is the powerful story of an Indian boy snatched from his parents by an invading troop of soldiers, and along with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of others, is taken to a secret government facility to be used for experiments that neither the child, or the reader, ever fully understands. But the underlying emotions of despair, confusion, and the overall sense of violation and outrage at the mistreatment of a proud race of people, ring crystal clear.
Finally, perhaps my favorite is One Good Man, about a teacher who returns to the reservation in which he grew up to care for his father, who is dying of cancer. The love between these two is strong, and Alexie paints a beautiful portrait of a man struggling to cope with the impending loss of his father, while trying to understand his role in the world, often posing the question, "What is an Indian?" to himself throughout the piece. This story's poignancy will likely leave you with a smile on your face and tear in your eye. There are nine stories in all in this collection, and every one is a definite must read.
The Toughest Indian in the World is a broad, blunt, yet touching journey into the frustrating yet glorious things that make us human. Sherman Alexie's previous collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (which was the basis for his award-winning screenplay for the film, Smoke Signals), won him much acclaim and millions of fans around the world.
And now that I've read, The Toughest Indian in the World, he has one more.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is not for kids under 13 or 14, January 12, 2008
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I thought this was a kid's book and bought it for a 10 year old's birthday, but he is not getting it (yet). It is NOT for kids as some subject matter is not appropriate--masturbation, looking at girls' breasts, for example, are mentioned briefly but may be upsetting to some parents. For us old folks (I am 61) this was a good read. A little simple, but dead on about life, what we did to the American Indians, teen life, life between parent and child, child and best friend, the importance of education, the importance of being weird and the importance of fitting in, etc. I've never read the author's work before so the technique of writing as a 14 year old and interspersing cartoon sketches was new to me. If you are too young, you won't get a lot of the references, so better to be older.
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62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Part-Time Lover of Part-Time Indian, March 30, 2008
By 
Filled with Alexi's trademark beautiful and straightforward prose, Part-Time Indian tells the story of Arnold, a Spokane Indian trying to better his life beyond the confines of his race and his circumstance. This is a moving story filled with wonderful storytelling moments and thrilling scenes. While I finished the book wanting more, which is a good thing, although I also felt that some of the most interesting aspects of Arnold's character (dealing with his disability, his physical "difference" from kids in his new school, his determination to get beyond the rez, his being an artist, etc.) were dropped in favor of a tidier conclusion. In the end, the book leaves us centering on his relationship to his best friend, his ability to move on and at the same time leave the reservation behind. However effective the symbolism, I wanted more in the way of Arnold's coming of age. This is a gratifying read, in part because there are such beautiful moments, but I prefer books in which the character details affect the narrative more powerfully. Arnold is a fascinating character, and I felt that he was reduced, simplified by the end's tidy message. This may be knit-picking, but although I love Ellen Forney, I thought the "voice" of the cartoons was not exactly in sync with that of the main character. The cartoons are very clever and they add to the humor in this otherwise very funny book, but they felt like they were authored by someone other than Arnold.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this novel is filled with equal parts humor and tragedy along with some memorable characters thrown in to taste, September 2, 2007
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the first book written by Sherman Alexie specifically for a young adult audience. I finished it in two days but have been holding onto my copy because I've been having a hard time articulating why I might love this book.

If you have read anything by Alexie, you know that he writes about life on the Spokane Indian reservation in Washingotn. In Reservation Blues Alexie described the misadventures of Thomas Builds-the-Fire and his friends as they try to start a band (and deal with the relative fame that follows). Like Reservation Blues, this novel is filled with equal parts humor and tragedy along with some memorable characters thrown in to taste. What surprised me about Diary is that it is also more biting that Reservation Blues. At times Alexie's descriptions of white-Indian relations and life on the rez are so scathing that they're painful to read. And yet . . . I couldn't put the book down.

Now that you are sufficiently intrigued, let's talk about the plot.

This story revolves around Arnold "Junior" Spirit, his family and his best friend, Rowdy. We join Arnold at the beginning of the novel at the age of 14. Born with a variety of physical ailments, Arnold is used to being picked on. He doesn't mind, though, because he knows he has his art and his intelligence and his family. Things get complicated for Arnold when he realizes that he has to leave the reservation in order to get a good education and succeed where most of his family and friends have failed. So Arnold starts going to the all-white school in a neighboring all-white town.

As the story progresses, Arnold grapples with his decision and trying to figure out his identity in his new surroundings. With the additions of love, rivalry, and basketball Alexie has enough twists to keep the most impatient readers enthralled. The illustrations by Ellen Forney also really add to the text.

In Reservation Blues and some of his other works, Alexie brings up the issue of alcoholism and heavy drinking on the reservation. The subject comes up again here. I can't say that I understand heavy drinking as a past time in general-it remains equally perplexing here. At the same time, Alexie aptly shows the damage that one too many bottles of . . . whatever . . . can cause, which is part of why I think this novel is really important.

But you won't be reading this book just because I happen to think it's important. No. I expect that you will find yourself charmed by Arnold and his unique outlook on life and opportunity. I know I did.

Like Alexie's other writing, this book is poetic and beautiful but still razor sharp.

When I finished reading, I didn't know what to say-so much so that I wanted to immediately re-read it. (It's the kind of book that you can do that with.) I think that's the best response you can have to a book: when it's so good it leaves you speechless.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very, very good work, June 5, 2000
By A Customer
Alexie's latest book is very good. The longest story, The Sin Eaters, didn't quite come together for me, but most everything else is extremely readable. These works have a strong sense of the Northwest in them, especially the Spokane Indian reservation Alexie grew up on. They're hardly provincial, though, embracing varieties of character, place, and theme.
The characters are usually Indian, often from the Spokane tribe, but also from many other tribes. Sometimes, one wishes Alexie didn't feel it necessary to repeat phrases so often, but his skills are too superior for that to be anything but a minor hitch. There's a great deal of imagination, and an awful lot of strength, behind his best stories: One Good Man, for example, is an elegant, blunt and elegaic image of a Spokane and his dying father. The wonder is at his ability to, in about a decade, produce so many books at a consistently high quality. He's gone from his roots as a very personal chronicler of his native people to, in this collection, an analysis of a failing marriage involving a Microsoft plebian, without hesitation. His writing could use some improvements, but he's still just in his early 30s, and already at the highest literary levels.
With impressive consistency, this book gathers up deeply interesting characters, puts them on the page, and demands that we pay attention to them. And indeed, it is the vigorous, blemished, unheroic and occasionally violent characters of Alexie's work who represent his greatest skill. His sparse and blunt style concentrates on character and plot: Metaphor and imagery are secondary concerns. In summary: buy this book, buy his other books, and plan on buying the books he'll write in the future.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, October 28, 2007
By 
Sam "Little Paws" (The Arizona Desert) - See all my reviews
I've always been a fan of Sherman Alexie, so when I saw this book was written for the young adult marketplace, I took a chance. Without reading it myself first, I brought it in and read it to my class (7th and 8th graders). They loved it. They were excited, enthralled, amused and heartbroken by it. More importantly, after reading it, I had a line of kids (most of whom are generally non-readers) wanting to borrow the book to read it again. To Mr. Alexie, a teacher's highest praise: You made my students want to read.
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Paperback - April 1, 2009)
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