Monday, November 22, 2021

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

First Line: I was born with water on the brain.
Based on the author's own experiences, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junior has the strength of purpose to stop attending the reservation school and transfer to an all-white school over twenty miles away in order to get a better education. There's are many "optional extras" included in the curriculum at Junior's new school because the only other Indian there is the school mascot.


With the addition of the drawings of Ellen Forney, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has the power to break your heart and make you extremely angry.

The watershed moment for Junior is when a white teacher at his reservation school states, "The only thing you kids are being taught is how to give up." Junior sees the truth to this-- he and his classmates are being taught from the same textbooks as their parents for one thing-- and since he's a long way from wanting to give up, he finds the strength of purpose to break away from the life he was destined to live. 

This isn't the first book I've read by Alexie, and I've enjoyed every one, even though he often stirs me to anger. Alexie addresses many commonplace facts of life on the reservation. For instance, Junior tells us, "I'm fourteen years old and I've been to forty-two funerals." When people live in a place with no hope, is it surprising that many of them give up?

But there are also moments of laughter and joy in describing a life well-lived, for example, or when Junior learns the history of homosexuals in his culture and he exclaims, "Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss Army knives!"

If I hadn't read Sherman Alexie before, this book would have been an eye-opening experience. As it is, it's a beautifully written diary of a brave young man as well as an exposé of the shameful way one race treats another.

Read it. Ignorance is not bliss.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
ISBN: 9780316013680
Little, Brown & Company © 2007
Hardcover, 320 pages
Young Adult, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap


  1. How right you are, Cathy! Ignorance is not bliss. This sounds like a powerful read, all the more so because it comes from personal experience. I've been in the world of education and higher education for a long time; this rings sadly true and seems very compelling.

  2. I already have this one on my wish list, but now maybe I'll do something about it! I need to find out more about Junior!

  3. This has been on my Should-Read list; thanks for the reminder!

  4. It sounds like an excellent, but sad book. I read an excellent book of short stories by Alexie about issues no often written about.

    1. The miracle of this book is that it isn't always sad. Junior has a sense of humor, although on rare occasions it's a bit adolescent and raunchy for some people's tastes.


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