The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie / ★★★★☆
One sentence summary: Teenage cartoonist, Junior, leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to go to an all-white school, Reardon.
“No, I like this other one more,” Coach said. “The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor.”
“That’s a good one.”
“It’s perfect for you. I’ve never met anybody as committed as you.”
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
This book is a rather short, quick read, and it’s written in a simplistic style, but it carries a lot of heavy issues and themes. I really enjoyed this book, and as a white woman who admittedly does not know very much about modern Native Americans, it gave me a whole new awareness. As the title of this book implies, the book is told through the diary of Junior, and it’s interspersed with little doodles, drawings, and comics to explain what he can’t through words alone.
This book encompasses issues of racism, alcoholism, death, family, friendship, and being a teenager, and how all of these things overlap for Junior from his point of view as an American Indian. This was a funny book and a very honest book, and I really, really loved it wrapped up in the end.
I love Junior. He’s sarcastic and insightful and bluntly honest. He was a teenager who was wise beyond his years, and he was a teenager who was every bit of a teenager. I particularly loved how he portrayed his friends and family in his writing, because he didn’t shy away from describing their faults or the wrongs they’d done him, but they were also so completely coated in love. Junior didn’t hide the way his family broke his heart, and I loved his conflict with his best friend, Rowdy, who gets made at everything and fights everyone, and the way he befriended the white kids at his new school. Junior was self-deprecating, but he fought for himself, and he had no allusions about anyone else. He made me love the people around him like he did.
The writing of this book is simplistic and I think it really works, especially since it’s supposed to be coming from a fourteen year old boy. The writing style is easy to read, sarcastic at times, and to the point. Some very tragic things happen in this book, but the bluntness makes it more impactful – there’s nothing flowery about Junior’s words, which is entirely appropriate, seeing as he expresses many ideas and feelings through drawings and comics.
Was I satisfied?
Yes. This book was a great and very interesting read, and I feel like I learned a lot that I wasn’t aware of.