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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Paperback – April 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7–10—Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with water on the brain, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist's grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney's simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. Reluctant readers can even skim the pictures and construct their own story based exclusively on Forney's illustrations. The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner. Alexie's tale of self-discovery is a first purchase for all libraries.—Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork with a decent jumpshot, spends his time lamenting life on the "poor-ass" Spokane Indian reservation, drawing cartoons (which accompany, and often provide more insight than, the narrative), and, along with his aptly named pal Rowdy, laughing those laughs over anything and nothing that affix best friends so intricately together. When a teacher pleads with Arnold to want more, to escape the hopelessness of the rez, Arnold switches to a rich white school and immediately becomes as much an outcast in his own community as he is a curiosity in his new one. He weathers the typical teenage indignations and triumphs like a champ but soon faces far more trying ordeals as his home life begins to crumble and decay amidst the suffocating mire of alcoholism on the reservation. Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt. A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure. Younger teens looking for the strength to lift themselves out of rough situations would do well to start here. Chipman, Ian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book hits home about the real world and real life among Native Americans. The options are: Stay on the Rez with the status quo or move out to "white man's land" and become part of that society. Covering as a light comedy, this book offers insight to the reader that isn't normally given. Sherman Alexie writes as though he's been there - that's because he has.
Then I read the description of the book to my 11 year old son -he wasn't interested. Then I told my husband about it, he was skeptical too. But I bought the book and insisted that my son read the first 2 chapters before giving his verdict. Once he started reading, he couldn't put the book down! I caught him reading it at 10:30pm, well past his bedtime. He was simply engrossed in the story!
So I'm giving it five stars because anytime an 11 year old can't put a book down, that's a good thing. And if they're learning about Native American culture and modern life, it makes it that much better!
Since the book is about the life of a teenager, there are some issues that some people may object to. There are some inappropriate parts that many would say are unnecessary such as "Naked woman + right hand = happy happy joy joy", but I think it enhances the book and shows how this teenage boy really feels. There is also discrimination between Junior and all of his white classmates at his new school. They would state racist comments such as "Did you know that Indians are living proof that N***ers F**k buffalo?", but Junior did not let this stop him from living his life, because he knew that if he wanted to make a change in the world, there would be many difficulties he would have to conquer. Even though some parts of the book made me uncomfortable, I had to keep an open mind reading it to be able to understand the lifestyle of a teenage boy. The issues addressed in this book are necessary because they help make the book more descriptive and realistic about how Junior lives his life.
Because of these many issues discussed before, I would recommend this book to mature teenagers and above. They should be able to handle it as long as they are reading it maturely. It teaches you a different perspective on life, and is a great book overall.
Alexie does not stand on a soap box proclaiming the wrongs done to his people but with a subtle touch, interweaves that history and its consequences for the first Americans into his narrative. Through his characters Junior and Rowdy, he explores the choice to stay or go.
This book is eloquent, beautifully written, thought provoking, and above all, honest.