Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Publication Date: January 2007
Genre(s): Young adult, Realistic fiction, Humor
I was born with water on the brain.
Arnold Spirit is just like all the other Indians on the rez, except he was born with too much cerebral spinal fluid in his brain. After surviving surgery, he became epileptic. His vision was also messed up, and he had a stutter and a lisp. He was smart, but was bullied and only had one friend on the entire reservation. One day, his teacher tells him that the only way to become successful is to leave the rez and attend the white high school in a nearby town. Arnold abandons his tribe to attend school with the white kids where he is treated like an actual human being. He’s also one of the smartest kids in his school and makes the varsity basketball team. But is all of this freedom and respect worth leaving his tribe – his people – behind?
I’ve never been a big fan of Native American literature. No, it’s not because I’m racist or uncultured or an asshole — it just typically does not appeal to me. I haven’t read many novels about Native Americans, and those that I’ve read have not truly enticed me. I read True Diary for my Young Adult literature class and was surprised that I enjoyed it. It’s hard for me to relate to this type of literature, so it’s hard for me to get into it. True Diary was different for me. I was easily absorbed into the story and enjoyed reading it. The story was interesting and unlike anything I’ve read before. True Diary is sad, funny, hopeful, and sweet all at once, and it surprised me.
Arnold is a great narrator. At fourteen-years-old, he is hilarious and intelligent and a great protagonist. It’s easy to sympathize with him from the first page until the last. Throughout the story, I found myself rooting for the kid through everything. He is such a brave and admirable character. And he’s funny. To me, he wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but he is witty and made me smile. And his doodles are included throughout the story, as well, which only adds to his charm. Rowdy is also a likable character, even when the two are “enemies.” I also really liked Gordy — I thought he was smart and a cute nerdy kid. And Roger was an interesting character because he was set up to be this all-star sports bully, but turned out to be this really nice, understanding guy. Definitely some complex characterization going on.
I read Sherman Alexie’s poetry in my American Literature class last year but had never read any of his stories until True Diary. I think Alexie is a good writer and is a great voice for Native Americans. I know much of this novel is autobiographical and it makes it even more amazing knowing Alexie experienced similar things his character went through. This book is probably intended for a younger audience than myself, but I still enjoyed it. It seemed a little young for me, but that’s okay. It is technically YA, but it’s kind of on the cutoff of middle-grade and young adult. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novel more than I thought I would.
Favorite Quote(s): There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.