The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian

September 24, 2016
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Book Cover The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
September 12th, 2007
Ellen Forney

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.

(via Goodreads)

absolutely-true-dairy-comic-6The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
is a book that is simultaneously hilarious and heart-breaking. A powerful story told with a dry sense of humor, I constantly found myself laughing at things which should not be remotely funny… but in the context of the book, they just happened to be hilarious.

Junior Arnold Spirit is a 14-year-old Spokane Indian living on the reservation, or Rez. Born with too much cerebral spinal fluid in his skull, but with an above-average intelligence, Junior is unpopular and had no chances to get ahead in life. After all, everyone on the Rez just stays there until they die. absolutely-true-dairy-comic-4Then one day Junior decides he is sick of this and wants a chance at achieving his dreams– so he transfers to the “white” high school 45 minutes outside the Rez.

But we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams. We don’t get those chances. Or choices. We’re just poor. That’s all we are.

Unlike other challenged books I have read, it’s easy to pick out why The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian might be challenged. This book addresses death, domestic abuse, depression, alcoholism, drug addiction/abuse, masturbation, premarital sex, abandonment, bullying, fist fighting, gun abuse, eating disorders, racism, and family issues. Plus there is explicit language and a general lack of cultural sensitivity. While this laundry list of “issues” might feel intense, never once does this novel feel like an “Issues Book”. This is just the story of a teenaged boy trying to break out of the mold society if forcing him into while navigating being a teenager. Junior just wants to escape from everything he has known and find something better for himself. absolutely-true-dairy-comic-1Talk about summarizing what it means to be a teen perfectly.

When it comes to death, we know that laughter and tears are pretty much the same thing.

My laughter comes from the way Sherman Alexie portrays Junior. He is a witty, self-deprecating, generally non-complaining high schooler. We get to experience the world through Junior’s eyes. His dark humor coupled with his sketches are how he chooses to deal with the situations around him. After all, at 14 Junior has already attended 42 funerals. As a white reader, I was sometimes uncomfortable with my laughter. There is so much inherently wrong with the life and perspective Junior has– and yet, this is a very real depiction of how Native Americans are currently living their lives out in the United States.

I also adore Junior because he loves books. Loves books openly and unabashedly. It’s perfection for me.

That’s right, I’m a book kisser.

One last worthy note: Sherman Alexie is a #OwnVoices author. This hashtag, developed by Corinne Duyvis, is about authors writing about their direct experiences, instead of an author from a dominant group who writes about a marginalized culture and gets a ton of praise for it. For example:


This isn’t to say that I want everyone to write only their own experiences– but diversity is front and center in literature right now. This just happens to be a huge trigger for misrepresentation, stereotypes, and tropes despite the best of intentions. Authors writing their own experiences write with extra nuance and authority that comes from living that experience.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a beautiful, depressing, eye-opening, and hilarious book. It touches on a laundry list of taboo issues, but that is what makes it such an essential challenged book to read.

5 Stars


  • Read Diverse Books September 25, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    I am impressed by how often you post! Keep up the amazing content. 🙂
    I liked this one a lot too. It’s one of the most prominent books by a Native American in YA, so I think everyone should read it, but I still want there to be more stories like this one by a variety of Indigenous authors. There is a wealth of indigenous literature that is well known in the adult literary genre, but I think kidlit is lagging behind a little.

    • Jackie B September 25, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Aw, thanks, Naz! This week is really important to me, so I am making certain I’m staying on top of my posts.
      KidLit is lagging behind for sure– all the other stories featuring Native Americans in Kids Lit I can think of certainly are NOT #OwnVoices. I don’t know many Indigenous North American authors, myself! The only other one I can think of off the top of my hear is Louise Erdrich and her book The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Any authors you’d recommend I should dig into more?

  • Brendon September 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Yes, hilarious and heart-breaking. I think those are the perfect two words to describe this book. This is a charming and very powerful #ownvoices book and I enjoyed reading your review and thoughts!

    • Jackie B September 26, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks, Brendon! I appreciate the accolades. 🙂

  • Uriahs Victor September 29, 2016 at 7:43 pm


  • Birdie October 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    I love this book so much! It breaks my heart that it’s such a hot button book, and that it’s on the challenged list because I think it talks about so much that’s so relevant.

    I love your review! I love the format.

    • Jackie B October 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks, Birdie! Welcome. 🙂 It’s great to hear new voices.
      I completely agree with your point. People like to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to these issues; I’m just glad someone is willing to take this on with a young audience. I can’t wait to read more by Sherman Alexie!

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