The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Art by Ellen Forney
A Book That Has Been Banned
Arnold “Junior” Spirit is trapped in a life of poverty on the Spokane Indian reservation and he has to do something about it. Everyone around him is poor, but Junior has the additional problem of not fitting in on the reservation. Skinny with a big head, thick black plastic glasses and prone to seizures, he’s been picked on and beat up his whole life. Drawing cartoons helps him cope, but Junior knows what will happen if he stays. It’s what has already happened to his mother and alcoholic father. “They dreamed about being something other than poor,” he writes, “but they never got the chance to be anything because nobody paid attention to their dreams.”
Junior is good in school and knows that’s his ticket. So when he asks his parents if he can switch to the all-white Reardon High School, one of the best schools in the state, they say okay. They do that because they love him.
The switch costs Junior his best and only friend, Rowdy. And it’s very different at Reardon where the kids have everything they want. Will he be able to live in both worlds? Junior’s sense of humor carries him through much, but he must reach deeper to survive a series of tragedies at home.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a semi-autobiographical account of Alexie’s life and is a terrific Young Adult coming-of age story. Ellen Forney’s fantastic cartoon illustrations add an extra dimension to Junior’s character. I chose it as part of my summer reading challenge to read a book that has been banned.
The Diary has been banned by many schools because of its depiction of sex and violence in the story. (Click here to read more about Sherman Alexie and his response to this criticism.) It has also won many awards, including the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and has been named to several annual lists including “Best Books of 2007” by the School Library Journal and the 2008 “Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults” by the Young Adult Library Services Association. I highly recommend it for older young adults, high school and adult readers.
Visit Alexie’s website at fallsapart.com.
Click here to read about a terrific short story by Alexie, “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”.
Follow along as I work my way through my 16 in 16 Challenge!
Book 1 – A Book You Can Finish in a Day: The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner
Book 2 – A Book in a Genre You Typically Don’t Read: The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
Book 3 – A Book with a Blue Cover: The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Book 4 – A Book Translated to English: I Refuse by Per Petterson
Book 5 – A Second Book in a Series: Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy
Book 6 -A Book To Help You Learn Something New: The Beginner’s Photography Guide by Chris Gatcum
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