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

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.

 

I loved this book for so, so many reasons. First of all, it’s an #ownvoices book, with a story focusing on a Native American teenage boy ( and we all know how rare Native Americans are in YA lit and literature in general). Secondly, it tackles many important issues that still remain relevant, despite this book being written a decade ago, like alcoholism, grief, parental neglect and/or ab*se, racism. The beautiful writing and the cute as fuck illustrations only add to and improve the plot of an already good book, elevating it to a whole new level.

 

One thing that really intrigued me was how genuinely and accurately Alexie described Junior’s feelings, and how honest and relatable the main character became. His struggles, his hopes and dreams make the reader instantly love him, and the fact that he describes all the micro-aggressions Native Americans face every day with a brutal honesty and an open heart doesn’t hurt either.

 

Junior finds himself trying to fit in into two completely different environments that almost call for two “opposite” sides of him to develop. He approaches every situation bravely, and he always tries his best, because he knows he needs to get out. Out of his small rez and out of the boxes people try to put him in. This is something I could really relate to, since I’m also going away to university, in an almost desperate attempt to escape my small town and its conservative ways. I could really see myself in that kid and that almost made me wish I’d read that book earlier.

 

It is not, however, a perfect book. While it discusses – and tackles – racism from a perspective we almost never see in literature, it’s almost inconsiderate concerning mental illness. Slurs are thrown around, eating disorders are not treated properly, and in some certain scenes I found the word depresses being used almost as a synonym to sad. It somehow made the book more believable though, since it’s supposedly written by Junior, and he is just 14. I really wish the author would’ve chosen differently though.

 

The scenes between Junior and Rowdy were definitely my favourite part of the book. Every single one of them was so powerful, so full of emotions, that it felt almost too personal to read about. The pair has such an interesting dynamic and relationship that at the end of the book I found myself wishing for a sequel, just so that I could see more of them. They may fight and they may struggle, but at the end of the day they still love each other more than anything.

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