The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Arnold Spirit Junior was supposed to die at during surgery when he was six months old. Born on a Spokane Indian Reservation, he was too much cerebral spinal fluid on his brain that had to be drained off right away. His head is large and he needs thick glasses. He talks slow and is bullied by most of the kids and some of the adults on the Reservation. Yet, he is the wisest kid I have ever read about.
Life is tough for him, yet he keeps on going. His family is close. When you don’t have anything including steady meals you learn to depend upon your immediate and extended family.
After an altercation at the Indian school, Junior’s teacher advises him to get out. He feels Junior will never survive if he stays on the Res. With alcoholic parents and no future to speak of except a life of poverty, Junior decides he wants to go to a white school off of the Reservation.
Even though the kids live within twenty miles of the Res, it is a different world with different rules. Junior is in a foreign place trying to learn the rules and language without harming himself or anyone else.
This book is amazing. The characters are so well developed I felt like I could have a conversation with them. The tragic events this fourteen-year-old boy experienced are more intense than most adults will experience. But don’t get the impression that this is a sad, depressing book. It is a book about hope, over-coming challenges and taking risks. The lessons Junior learns are life lessons all of us should appreciate and heed.
This novel deals with human and often controversial issues in an honest and straightforward way without the sugar-coated illusions in other books. There are sexual situations (yeah, he is a 14 year-old – what did you expect?), alcohol abuse (unfortunately this is a problem on Indian Reservations), salty language (see the earlier note about how old these kids are), and the problem with fitting in/bullying are all throughout the book. This is the reason it was placed on the list of banned books.
Unless your teen has been living in seclusion or away from all other kids and social media, I don’t really think there is anything in Alexie’s book that they haven’t seen or heard. It is such an amazing read with subtle ways to cope with bullying and making your life work when it seems like nothing is going your way I would honestly have allowed my sons to read it. I would have bought it for them. If you are concerned – read it first or at the same time and discuss it.
And if you live in country that gives you the freedom of deciding what you want to read – I am happy for you. I take that freedom seriously so nothing makes me want to read a book more than placing it on a banned list. There are just so many I don’t know if I’ll ever have time to read them all, but am extremely happy that I read this one.
If you read it, or have read it – let me know your thoughts.