Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Alexie, Sherman. 2007. THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316013680 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-10]

Fourteen-year-old budding cartoonist Arnold Spirit (“Junior”) is a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. Because of his intellectual abilities, one of Junior’s teachers encourages him to leave the reservation school to attend the wealthy, all-white school in Rearden. Soon Arnold finds himself an outcast at home on the “rez” as well as at his new school.

In this semi-autobiographical novel, Alexie portrays the culture clash between Junior’s home on the reservation and the all-white school with humor and pathos. While much of the description may be difficult to read, Alexie does not patronize the reader. The addition of the simple cartoons help to lighten a sometimes overpoweringly sad story.

Use this as a discussion of peer pressure and fitting in. Compare Arnold’s experience as a Native-American teenager with characters from other minorities such as Amal in Abdel-Fattha’s DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS ISBN 0439919479 or Young Ju in An Na’s A STEP FROM HEAVEN 9780142500279 or Sofia in Canales’ THE TEQUILA WORM 9780375840890.

Other books relating the Native American experience:
Alexie, Sherman. FLIGHT. 0802170374
Lipsyte, Robert. THE BRAVE. 0060239158
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. RAIN IN NOT MY INDIAN NAME. 0688173977

By Donna Woody

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