Samantha’s CBRIII Review #24 – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

If you’re a book person or a YA (young adult) person or anything, you probably noticed an uproar a week or so ago, started by this article from the Wall Street Journal. Basically, the author suggested that YA fiction is “too dark” these days. As you might expect, YA authors and fans all made a lot of noise in response. One such response was by Sherman Alexie, and as such, I decided to read his The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Good choice.

The Absolutely True Diary … is an account of a year (or so) in the life of Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a teenager growing up on an Indian reservation. In making the decision to leave “the rez” to attend a much better school in a small white community, he alienates his tribe, loses his best friend, makes some surprising new ones, and learns a lot about himself and about the real world. It’s sort of a coming-of-age story, except at the end of it, Junior still has a long way to go.

This was a really fun (and quick and easy!) read. For the first chapter or so, I was feeling a bit like Alexie was trying to create his own Holden Caulfield, but ultimately, Junior’s voice won me over. He’s smart and honest and sensitive, and just such a BOY. The sad realities he shares about being an American Indian, and really about adulthood in general, are depressing, sure, but through his creativity, there still seems to be a bit of hope. Junior is an aspiring cartoonist, and as such the story is accompanied by some of his “cartoons,” marvelously drawn by Ellen Forney.

I was expecting something much darker given Alexie’s essay, and was pleasantly surprised here. Again, the subject matter is often quite serious and adult, but it’s treated with a sense of humor that is not disrespectful, but is rather whimsical. I really enjoyed it for its realism and humor, and the narration is the crowning achievement. You will love Junior (who presumably has more than a bit of Sherman Alexie himself in him) and cheer him on in any future, un-read-about (?) adventures.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Samantha’s CBRIII Review #24 – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

  1. His essay response to that article was fantastic. This doesn’t usually sound like my cup of tea, but I think I’ll pick it up based on your review and his essay. Well done review, thanks!

  2. I picked this up yesterday because of the essay. I’m glad to hear it’s not as dark as the essay implied since I also got a copy for a 12 year old girl I took out for the day, and her parents monitor what she reads on occasion, so I was worried this would get me in trouble.

  3. It’s not what I would call dark, but there are definitely some “adult” themes at play … for instance, he’s a very frank 14 year old boy, and so there are some things that 14 year old boys do, probably a lot (think about it), and he’s honest about that. In my opinion (and I’m only a brand-new parent) I think it would be appropriate, but it would be something that they would want to address/discuss, probably. Depends on the child and the parents, of course.

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