Glenn Miller's Reviews > The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
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Apr 19, 08


** spoiler alert ** I agree with Abby's review from 11/28/07. I wanted to like this book, but I was disappointed. It's the same Alexie story re-told for teens. The teen narrator doesn't feel authentic, though. He's made out to be a complete sadsack with a host of medical problems at first, then dates the prettiest girl in school and turns out to be a star basketball player. What did I miss?

And why oh why did Alexie feel it necessary to kill off three main characters in the last few chapters?! My cynical guess is that he felt he needed to at least make his plot interesting. As it happens, though, these events just muddy things up. In these deaths (as in the book as a whole), Alexie tries to address Native American stereotypes -- drinking, fighting, etc. -- by making fun of them. However, it felt as if he just ends up pointing out how true he thinks they are. Maybe I just didn't 'get' the humor.

It's especially important for young people to understand the struggles of many Native Americans today. And, of course, Alexie's point of view is valid. I just believe that he could have done much better in presenting these realities.

I enjoyed "The Lone Ranger..." and the film Smoke Signals. I wanted to like this book, too, but it was a chore getting to the end.

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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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Sandi I'm glad I'm not the only one that had this reaction to this book.


Rebecca After reading of Junior's physical appearance, plus the stutter, I also wondered how he ended up dating the most popular girl in school. It's like Alexie forgot the limitations of the character he created. Is it authentic to say that a popular, pretty girl would date someone like him? I'm not so sure, but I suppose it's nice to hope that it could happen.


Darrick Alexie didn't forget the limitations of the character as Arnold (Junior) is Sherman Alexie Junior! This book is entirely auto-biographical http://www.fallsapart.com/biography.html

@Glenn - Alexie didn't kill off three main characters in the last few chapters, God did (if you're religious). Those "characters" were also auto-biographical as they were Sherman's family, and they all died in a very short span of time. So... as hard as it is to believe, all this stuff (more or less) happened to Sherman Alexie.


message 4: by Megan (new)

Megan Janine wow!! i like this book....But...i dont know but it makes us indians sound really bad!!


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Truly he is right, this book is based off of his life. Some stries are strecthed but that is what we do on the Rez. Also, I can't believe you just thought he would kill off family for fun. Again, the book is right when you count white families and funerals and tribal families and funerals. There is a wake at least every two weeks. I know I won't have to cook at least two nights a month. His humor is native humor. It is hard to get but if you don't have humor all you have is sadness. Who wants that?

Enrolled member of Oneida Nation and yes, I live on the Rez. Proudly. I should also point out the casino thing is true and we are not rich.


message 6: by Loren (new)

Loren I totally go with your opinion. If this was an ordinary YA novel, I would wonder how the heck this actually became a book. The main character dating the most popular girl in school and then becoming popular himself is just so unrealistic when he was always bringing himself down in the beginning. But this book is based off of the author's own life. Not everything is true, as it would've been a memoir instead of a novel. But pretty much almost everything was based off of the author's past. Even the main character's initials is the same exact initials as Sherman Alexie except backwards. Pretty smart idea is what I think. ^___^


Isaac Hamlet Hanag on I just want to be sure you where aware that this is BASED OF HIS CHILDHOOD. Not to be rude but the coment about the three main characters made me wonder if you where aware of that. Also as far as being a sad sack I tood the rearadon school and then becoming freinds with penelope and being good at basket ball as showing that his life was already improving because of the white school. But even after that you can't deney that he has some reason to be sad still. He doesn't eat some nights, if he's not picked up or dropped of he has to walk and/or hitchhike, his siter, grandma, and dads friends (who really wasn't a main character) died. I mean, I'm a teenager and I'm like that, I feel bad about myself, I don't complain outloud but I do in my head and he has it MUCH worse than me. Even if he does have a girl friend and is a star baseketball player, I wouldn't trade the characters life for mine. I don't know, I guess it's a matter of opinion.


Rachel I came here to comment that the book is semi-autobiographical and that as unlikely as they seem, most of the events in the story are based on things that actually happened in Sherman Alexie's life, only to find that others have beat me to the punch.


King I to am American Indian living and working on the reservation that I'm enrolled at, most of you that are Indian know what that means. I am 62 years old, and I am so tired of non-Indians (white people) telling us who and what we are. The same thing happens to black people. Have you hear of the one drop laws? Look them up or did you know that Jeffersons children were 7/8ths white but were concidered black. Sherman is not talking stereotypes, he is talking real, only Indians can understand Indian humor, oh sure if you are not Indian you might get some of it, but you can always ask an Indian and they will explain it to you. I am glad there are Indians like Sherman that can write. Check out Mark Rolo's book "Wonder Bull" he too is Indian writer and has a White Woman going after an Indian man in his book. Or Marcie Rendons poem "What's An Indian Woman To DO" white woman going after our men. I as a Indian woman, I don't wonder why white women want an Indian man, if he hasn't been colonialised he will respect her as powerful and his equal.


message 10: by Kalyn (new) - added it

Kalyn I definitely agree. Killing off those people could have been done but it wasn't done with the right timing. Also, people are saying that it's auto-biographical and that's why Alexie killed them off. Alexie stated in an interview that the story is loosely based of his life. It is not a memoir.


Kasey Like everyone else commenting this, I'm saying that this book had many bits and pieces of Sherman Alexie's actual childhood. Not everything was true, names were changed, but Alexie WAS born with medical problems (minus the seizures and (I believe) the lisp). He WAS called Globe because of his big head. He DID have too many teeth and he DID ACTUALLY transfer to a white school which just happened to be called Reardan. Alexie did not just "kill off" three main characters. As an author, he wrote it to show that sad things like that do actually happen! A lot of us live in little protected bubbles outside of reality and books like this teach us of other cultures and other people's lives. As for Junior dating Penelope and being a star basketball player, maybe that's just how Alexie shows that even in the dark pit of glum that Junior was drowning in, there's still hope. That's actually the exact reason why Junior went to Reardan, the hope of a brighter future; university maybe?
I respect that you may have your own opinions about the book. That's okay. This is mine.


message 12: by Ro (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ro Cepellos I'm usually the first one to hate convenient plot developments that heavy-handedly push an agenda, but nothing in this tale felt that way. Him and Penelope? Rebecca's above comment proved EXACTLY why they wound up being an item! "...everybody thinks her life is perfect because she's pretty and smart and popular, but [...] she's scared all the time, but nobody will let her be scared because she's pretty and smart and popular." Why should the pretty, popular girl automatically be out of the "sad sack's" league? What a mountain of assumptions that embodies. Why can't a pretty, popular girl NOT be completely shallow? Why can't people grow and discover that the walls they had erected to protect themselves come crumbling down when we find the right person with a sledgehammer? RE: Arnold becoming a star basketball player: consider the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy! It exists, and countless studies can testify to its truth and power! In short, while Alexie may have indulged in liberal use of artistic license with his personal history, the story still rings absolutely true, and I have no idea how the OP can claim that Arnold doesn't feel authentic. I couldn't disagree more!


message 13: by Anonymous (new)

Anonymous Alexie does a great job to describe the struggles of Native Americans in an engaging, age appropriate way. Although the dramatic deaths within the book are depressing, they prove Alexie’s point excellently: alcoholism is a prevalent problem within Native American society. All three deaths within the book were a result from drunk Indians. Without the description of death, alcoholism may not be considered as endemic of a problem. There is no humor implied in the descriptions of the present stereotypes and struggles that Native Americans face today. Although, to balance the death, Alexie describes various forms of success for Junior including dating the most popular girl in school and becoming a star on the basketball team. Despite the fact that Junior’s successes may be perceived as unrealistic, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is still a Young Adult book, so it must contain happiness within Junior’s difficulties. Alexie’s writing is bittersweet and productive to prove his point and create a deeper understanding of Native American life today.


message 14: by Yamel (new) - rated it 1 star

Yamel Leal I understand where you are coming from when you say that you dislike this book. I wish that he had made the narrator more self confidant so that the teens who read this book would have followed an example. In this book junior who is the narrator seems to dislike being a Indian but towards the end I guess I can say that he finally realizes that Indian is what he is and he will always be an Indian. I also didn't like the end, I would have liked if maybe he added some more writing and not just end it there. Oh, and I also thought the the deaths and the causes here unbelievable. It was such a mean stereotype towards Indians. I enjoyed the humor of this book and the hilarious cartoons that were well drawn and I can say that I recon and this book to all teenagers.


message 15: by Anna (new)

Anna I respectfully disagree with you on your response. I ended up having to read it for school, and I liked it. You talked about how it is unrealistic because he goes from nothing to something very special, this gives the reader hope. Reading this fiction story the reader can say that their life was better in high school, or maybe say that they should not give up so easily, because Junior sure did not. Alexie doesn't kill off three characters quickly to end the story, he describes it how a freshman would see it, that death just comes out of nowhere, and once one dies it is so strange. I don't think he is making fun of Native Americans in a negative way, it is a realistic point, and he is Native American so making fun of yourself is sort of being sympathetic. I really think that to people that are looking to read this book should really read it not base the book off of this review


Adeline I think that was Alexie's point. Although it's sad, many Native American stereotypes are true. I don't think he's trying to make fun of his heritage, but bring a little humor into the sad situation. Comedians do it all the time. Life is sad, yet we still find the ability to laugh and make fun of sad situations because it can be a coping mechanism and as humans IT IS WHAT WE DO.


message 17: by Mira (new) - rated it 1 star

Mira I have read this book for years in school, as an learning-book in a language lesson. You know what, I absolutely agree with you. Also, even if my english wishes to be much better, I found the language of the book very primitiv. As if it was everything written for people who are a little bit invalid in theirs heads. Thanks for the review and you have got a "like" from me.=)


Katie "He at least wanted to make his plot interesting" so he killed those characters?!?!?!

I feel sorry for you. You obviously completely missed the point. He killed those characters off because he wanted to show how differently they viewed death at the rez. There, it's something that happens on a weekly basis. For us, death is a shock. For the Native Americans, it's simply a depressing routine. Why do you think Junior's voice was written so simplistically? To capture the routine-ness of death, to make Alexie's message more powerful.

Sorry, but I don't think you even understood this book at all.


Katie Also, the fact that so many people agree with this comment has made me lose faith in our education system, not to mention humanity. Were none of you paying attention in your English classes? To this thing called 'author's purpose'? I'm actually pissed off right now. None of you have any idea what you're talking about. None of you understood the beauty of this book.


Adeline I completely agree with you.


Adeline Katie that is


Brenna How does liking "The Lone Ranger" and Smoke Signals justify you not liking this book? I agree with Katie. The events in the book and Junior's reaction to them are strange because the multiple deaths are something that most readers have not experienced.


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