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Kid Konnection: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

December 11, 2010

Arnold Spirit, or Junior, as he known on the reservation, was born with all sorts of medical problems, so he was teased by everyone but his best friend, Rowdy.  Junior turns to drawing to communicate with the world and has big dreams of being well known one day.    When he’s fourteen and attending the reservation high school, he’s stunned when he receives his mother’s old geometry book on the first day of school.  Seeing his mother’s name in that book makes him realize that he’ll never get the quality education that he craves, and deserves, as long as he attends the reservation school, so he talks his parents into allowing him to transfer to a high school in a nearby affluent community.

Going to the new school isn’t all that easy, though.  First of all, there’s no bus going to the school, and Arnold (as Junior’s called at the new school) has to be creative to find ways to get there.   Then there’s the fact that the only other Indian at the school is its mascot.   Also, Rowdy and a lot of the other Indians feel that Arnold has turned his back on them.

Sherman Alexie’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, chronicles Arnold’s first year at his new high school, and what a year it is!  The book is told from Arnold’s point of view, and he’s a fantastic character – he’s hormonal and determined, proud and sincere, and scared and eager.  He loves his family and his people, yet wants to rise above the poverty and disease that surrounds him.  My heart ached for Arnold and I rooted for him throughout the book.

The best thing about this book, besides Arnold, is reading about the Indian culture.  The reservation helps preserve the tribe’s culture, but it’s filled with despair, alcoholism and shattered dreams.    The main occupations seem to be selling trinkets to tourists or working at the casinos.  When Junior dreams of leaving and seeing the world, he’s accused of trying to “be white.”  It just makes you wonder why nothing is being done to improve conditions there.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and for good reason.  Alexie does a masterful job of writing in the voice of a fourteen year old and I was engrossed in this book right from the beginning, at turns I found myself laughing and crying.  It’s a fabulous coming of age story about a young man who wants to improve his lot in life.   I absolutely loved Arnold and this book and can’t say enough good things about it.   The book also contains some wonderful illustrations by Ellen Forney.  There is some language and a little sexual content, so it’s not for the younger YA set, but I’d recommend it to older YA readers on up.  This book is fantastic!

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2010 6:18 am

    I’ve still not read this one despite it being so talked about. I need to add it to my TBR. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. December 11, 2010 7:39 am

    Isn’t it great? And I loved the drawings! I’ve tried his other books but they are so much darker, so I was glad to find one that had humor and redemption in it too!

  3. December 11, 2010 7:40 am

    I have heard good things about this one, I should see of my library has, though i doubt it

  4. December 11, 2010 7:40 am

    While I enjoyed the writing, the story left me feeling kind of blah.

  5. December 11, 2010 8:00 am

    I can’t wait to read this one. I already have it in my TBR pile!

  6. December 11, 2010 8:35 am

    I’ve had this on my radar for a long time — now I *know* I have to read it.

  7. December 11, 2010 11:06 am

    I really can’t wait to read this one. It will be interesting to read from a fourteen-year old’s perspective.

  8. December 11, 2010 11:57 am

    I’m usually on the look-out for good YA for my granddaughter but I think I’ll read this one myself. Sounds so good.

  9. December 11, 2010 12:31 pm

    Going to let Mrs Q know about this one since it might be something she’d like to read. Noting it for myself since I would love to read this since it did win a prize for its significance. Thanks for opening up my reading world further.

  10. December 11, 2010 1:44 pm

    I am so surprised I’ve never heard of this book. It sounds great!

  11. Beth Hoffman permalink
    December 11, 2010 2:27 pm

    I loved your review, Kathy! I just so happen to know a teen who would thoroughly enjoy this book. I’ve marked it down as a gift for his birthday! Thanks.

  12. December 11, 2010 2:42 pm

    This looks interesting. I haven’t really heard about it till now but I think I need to check it out!

  13. December 11, 2010 2:54 pm

    Well, I love anything Sherman Alexie! I’m in!

  14. December 11, 2010 3:37 pm

    It sounds wonderful. Every review I read bumps this one up a little higher on my TBR.

  15. December 11, 2010 4:26 pm

    At my son’s urging I read this book last year (I think) and I was blown away by it. I recommend it constantly to my reluctant 8th grade boys and once they’ve read this book I have them hooked!!

  16. December 11, 2010 4:43 pm

    I love love LOVED this book!

  17. December 11, 2010 5:34 pm

    I loved much of the book but felt that it suffered from some repetitiveness, so laziness in the middle. Did you feel that at all?

  18. December 11, 2010 6:08 pm

    This does sound great. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  19. December 11, 2010 6:11 pm

    Kathy, this sounds like a great book for (older) young adults and adults. I don’t read that many books for young adults, but I’m adding this one to my list. Thanks for another terrific review.

  20. December 12, 2010 6:23 am

    I have no idea why I haven’t read this yet. I know I’ll love it!

  21. December 12, 2010 11:50 am

    I think this goes on my kid’s Christmas list. I love that Native American heritage is woven in and that it’s from the perspective of a slightly older kid. Thank you for this review.

  22. stacybuckeye permalink
    December 12, 2010 3:03 pm

    This was one of my favorites last year, I’m so glad you loved it too! I keep meaning to pick up the book because Jason and I listened to it on a car trip. I highly recommend the audio books read by Alexie. Since he is Arnold the listening experience is fantastic.

  23. December 12, 2010 4:30 pm

    I can’t wait to get a copy of this book. I’ve had one requested from bookmooch for a long time (and the person still hasn’t sent it). Hopefully soon. 🙂

  24. December 12, 2010 8:15 pm

    Aarti and a few others read this book and raved about it. I haven’t ever tried anything by Alexie, and this sounds like the one I would definitely go to first. You wrote such a wonderful review on this book, and now I really want to read it. So glad to hear that it was such a good read for you and that it was so believable!

  25. December 12, 2010 9:03 pm

    What a great-sounding book. I love reading about cultures, how people do things their way. This sounds wonderful. Thanks for reviewing it.

  26. December 12, 2010 9:05 pm

    I should add, I do a lot of reviews of books about how people live their lives around the world–The Maasai, the Pygmies, etc–on my science blog ( It seems to me, any way we choose to lead our lives, is fine.

  27. December 12, 2010 10:02 pm

    I’ve heard such good stuff about this book. I’m going to have to read it with my son one day.

  28. December 13, 2010 9:04 pm

    I am so glad you enjoyed this book! It’s one of my favorite books ever! Great review.

  29. December 13, 2010 11:48 pm

    Every review I’ve read of this one is positive. I’ve got to add this to my list!

  30. December 14, 2010 5:42 pm

    Yay! So glad you enjoyed this one. I read it earlier in the year and loved it too. What a great YA.

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