23 July 2015

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian found its way into the hands and hearts of many a book blogger years ago. At the time, I kept meaning to read it, but as often happens, I never got around to it. Now years later, and I do mean yeeaarrss, I read the sucker. And it was awesome.

Told from the first-person perspective of Junior, cartoonist/Indian/traitor, the book is hilarious, poignant, and creative. It follows Junior as he leaves the reservation in hopes of a better education in a nearby community. Some days he walks miles and miles to and from school, a hardship only emphasized by those on the reservation seeing Junior as a traitor to his people and those in his new school seeing him as nothing more than a scrawny, loser Indian from the rez.

A remarkably emotional book, the story reveals the sad truths of many Native Americans still living on the reservations without being overly sensational or preachy. Never did I feel like an event or description was included merely to shock or evoke emotion. Everything, even the worst bits, felt very real.

My favorite part of the book is the illustrations by Ellen Forney. The drawings are Junior's cartoons which perfectly illustrate the concepts he discusses. One of my favorite images shows the distinctions Junior is making between the white kids in his new school and his Indian friends back on the rez:

This image struck me as being particularly powerful and a wonderful illustration of the book's form: it is simple, stark and notably complex and thought-provoking.

Like the artwork, the language is very straightforward, no flowery pontifications here, just simple truths. Junior's thoughts on poverty really struck me: “Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.” The book is full of quotes like this, simple and important.

If you haven't read this yet - and I'm sure you have - do so as soon as possible. It is quick, powerful, fun, and maddening.


  1. I kinda wish I hadn't read this when I did. At the time, my boys were just starting to enter pre-adolescence, and I found myself not really enjoying much of the book because it felt like too much. Like, when the boys were babies, I definitely didn't want to read anything about young motherhood. So it was completely the wrong time for reading this one.

  2. I enjoyed this one when I read it for Banned Book Week.

  3. This is one of my favorite books! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. You're so right about the illustrations. They go perfectly with Junior's story. Have you read Ellen Forney's graphic memoir?

  4. I loved this book! I agree about the illustrations, and agree with Vasilly on the Forney memoir suggestion :-)

  5. Yes, a fabulous book and one I recommend often.

  6. Fantastic book. Have you read his Lone Ranger and Tonto book? Skip it. It doesn't measure up to this one.


Talk to me baby!