Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this delightful book by award-winning Sherman Alexie. It’s just crass enough to appeal to young adult readers, with a story and characters inspiring and at times sad. The narrator and author of the “absolutely true diary” is Arnold Spirit, an awkward, lisping high school freshman who has already overcome much in the way of physical challenges just to survive in the world. If that were not enough, he was born into the poverty and hopelessness of the Wellpinit Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Although his parents are mostly-unemployed alcoholics, at least they bestow their love on Arnold and his older sister, and support them in their attempts to cope. Arnold is smart and a talented artist, and he has turned into a better-than-average basketball player. But in spite of his loving family, and the comradeship of his best friend Rowdy, Arnold comes to realize that his only chance for real success is to leave the reservation. With great courage he enrolls in the all-white high school in the neighboring town. Among the many challenges ahead, now he must deal with the prejudice of his classmates in addition to his quest for friendship and love.
The story is told with great humor and pathos in the obnoxious but often sensitive voice of a narrator who is committed to telling it like it is. He comments on everything from alcoholism to masturbation, with bathroom humor and sometimes wisdom beyond his years. He expounds on life on the reservation, Native American culture and modern life from the Indian point of view. And as a super bonus, the bold illustrations by Ellen Forney support the tone of the book in shades from whimsical to profound, in styles that vary from the quick dashed-off cartoon to the more thoughtful artistic and annotated sketches. Not just for young adults, this is a book with much to offer mature readers of any age.

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