In his first book for young adults, 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 acclaimed artist 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.
Miss Riki’s Review:
This book is all kinds of awesome. It is a quick, highly engaging read that packs an emotional punch. What struck me right away was the wonderful humor of the narrative, but don’t get me wrong- it’s absolutely funny, yet poignant and heartbreaking as well. Junior is born a little different with his share of physical ailments, but he’s sharp as a tack and incredibly observant about the world around him. When he sets out to make a better life for himself than the one he knows on the reservation, he faces many obstacles, but never gets discouraged. There’s an incredible sense of self and an unbreakable spirit about him that sets him apart from many YA protagonists.
This book has spent its fair share of time on banned book lists across the country, but after reading it I’m honestly left with more questions than answers. What on earth is within the pages of this book that has parents and school boards protesting? Is it because Junior talks about masturbation? Maybe, but the subject is tackled with the levity and truth necessary when speaking to a young adult audience. This isn’t a book about masturbation; it’s a book about finding yourself and reconciling your desire to make something better for yourself with the responsibility of protecting the ones you love. Junior struggles to be a part of his new world while still honoring his heritage and the friends and family of his past.
One of my favorite sections of the book is when Junior is talking about his love for books:
I grabbed my book and opened it up.
I wanted to smell it.
Heck, I wanted to kiss it.
Yes, kiss it.
That’s right, I’m a book kisser.
Maybe that’s kind of perverted or maybe it’s just romantic and highly intelligent.
I highly recommend this book. I picked it up as required reading for a young adult literature class and couldn’t be happier that I did. It’s funny, poignant, and hopeful.