Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What We're Reading: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Art by Ellen Forney

Fourteen year old aspiring cartoonist, Arnold Spirit (Junior), lives on a Spokane Indian Reservation -- “a million miles north of Important and two billion miles west of Happy.” Determined to get a good education, he leaves the school on “the rez” to go to school in Reardan, a rich, white farm town. Every day Junior travels 21 miles to his new school, and then returns to the reservation at night. The kids on the rez resent him for thinking he’s better than they are; the kids at Reardan think he’s “Bigfoot or a UFO”. He’s a part-time Indian.

Junior’s experiences are told in his own funny, smart voice and the book is peppered with cartoons illustrating his story. Although the overall tone is humorous, Junior’s life is filled with tragedy as well, and his stories about the reservation and its people gives the reader insight into the world of a young man between two cultures.

This is Sherman Alexie’s first young adult novel. He’s the author of Reservation Blues and the short story collections Ten Little Indians and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

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