Have you read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie?
Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore or surf your way over to your favorite e-retailer.
If you are an educator, this book is a wonderful read for a 7-10th grader. Arthur “Junior” Spirit has a lot of things going against him; he was born with hydrocephalus, he lives in poverty on the Spokane Reservation, and pretty much everyone except his best friend, Rowdy, bullies him. Junior, however, is brilliant, a talented artist and a generally hopeful kid. So when his teacher gives him some surprising unsolicited advice to leave the reservation and attend school in the predominately white town of Reardon, Junior takes the risk. Thus begins Junior’s part-time Indian life off the reservation. Throughout his diary, Junior’s heartfelt, poignant and downright hilarious cartoons help to illustrate both the confusion that all adolescents experience and the angst from Junior’s own unusual situation. Junior’s journey is far from smooth and is peppered by great triumphsand tragedies, but also the day-to-day experiences of an average teenager.
You should be forewarned: there are are some mature themes in this book including, but not limited to alcoholism, racism, and sexual maturation.
Why I liked it, you ask?
Well in the midst of describing some tragic and heart-wrenching situations, Junior’s voice rings true and manages to make you laugh. This is the story of a real kid, one that your students will relate to and enjoy. He is likeable and a great character to lead students into deep discussions about racism, stereotypes, Native American treatment and adolescence. Alexie includes fantastic cartoons throughout the book and this will appeal to readers that are interested in cartooning and Manga.
At the end of the day, Junior remains hopeful and finds himself outside of labels such as Native American or white. In our “melting pot” America, this is a viewpoint that can’t be taught enough to our students.
Let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did!
- Book Review of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (socyberty.com)
- Hear an interview with Sherman Alexie
- Listen to Sherman Alexie read from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
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