The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007): Sherman Alexie
This fictional book for adolescent readers was penned by Sherman Alexie as a semi-autobiographical tale of life on the Spokane Indian Reservation in eastern Washington State. The narrator is Arnold Spirit, Jr. or “Junior” as he is known on the rez. As an infant, Junior had hydrocephalus or “water on the brain” resulting in seizures and an enlarged head. These abnormalities make Junior an outcast and the brunt of jokes and bullying. Life on the rez is bleak, Junior’s father and many adults are addicted to alcohol and Junior attends many funerals which are usually alcohol related. Junior is smart perhaps due to his mother’s influence. She is intelligent and is a reader but is still affected by the negative perplexities of the reservation. Some of the main characters in the book include Junior’s best friend, Rowdy, a tough young man routinely beaten by his father. Mary Spirit is Junior’s sister and valiantly attempts to break free from her home life. Junior (like Alexie) decides to leave the rez and attend the all white high school in nearby Reardon, WA. The book chronicles Junior’s adventures at Reardon such as hitchhiking to school, befriending beautiful Penelope and brilliant Gordy, and becoming an unlikely star on the high school basketball team. Junior is a witty and engaging storyteller and this reader was laughing out loud as I read this unique piece of literature.
The novel deals with sensitive issues in a humorous tone and contains comical cartoons throughout which will appeal to both juvenile and adult readers. The book also has language and mature themes which resulted in it being banned in three states. Ironically, the novel was named the 2007 Young People’s Literature winner for the National Book Award. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an engaging, humorous, and thought provoking read about a young man and his culture. Sherman Alexie is also a filmmaker (Smoke Signals, 1998), poet, and writer of short stories (What You Pawn, I Will Redeem, 2003).
You can see more of the work of this brilliant author at: