Michael'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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Jun 24, 14

bookshelves: childrens-lit
Read in May, 2008

There are lots of fine moments in this breezy account of one teen's life on and off the rez, but it sometimes struck me as a bit random and too breezy. "Unreflected upon," say.

For example, Junior learns that an acquaintance is bulimic pretty early on. Does this come up again or really affect the character in question? Nope. It's merely a device to allow Junior to be momentarily sympathetic to the girl, and his sympathy wins her heart and they become boyfriend and girlfriend. At that point, he should care more, right?

But no, he's too preoccupied with his own problems, which are admittedly enormous. Three people close to him (really close to him) die in random ways that have to do with the sad life most native Americans lead. Junior is poor and can't always get to school. And so on and so forth. This is all fair material--native Americans do have, after all, a terrible heritage of alcoholism, depression, poverty, and more--but somehow the confluence of all of these terrible events in this skinny little book ends up feeling easy and contrived.

Or did to me, anyway. I might have felt more for Junior if he'd suffered one or two fewer blows, if more had been given over to what each of those blows meant to him.

[And more, below, added from a comment I made years later. It all seems relevant and shouldn't be buried in the comments section:

Interesting to read these comments on my long-ago review lo these years later. I still stand by my two-star rating—which, for the record, means "It was ok." Not that it was bad, or unbearably lousy, or any such thing. It was okay. Didn't love it. Didn't dislike it. Thought it was okay.

Most of the users of this website swiftly lose track of what the star ratings mean, and it grows tiresome to see them complain about a rating of "okay" or "liked it" (two stars or three stars). People don't love the same books you do; it's a matter of taste and context for each reader.

Which leads me to my "it was ok" rating for this book.

I don't doubt that the novel is inspired by events in Alexie's life. Were this billed as memoir instead of as a novel, I would have responded to it differently. (The latter suggests a form imposed on it by the writer; the former is more a document without the artificial tidying of fiction.) But as a novel, this left me wanting.

Is this because I'm a westerner as someone above alleges? I dunno. I'm certainly a fan of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, though really, who gives a damn with regards to any specific book. Each book is its own animal, and each deserves its own rating.

Whether or not that reader's response to a book jibes with your own shouldn't matter to you or to anyone else. De gustibus and all that.]
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Malbadeen ah, Bulimia - easy come, easy go.


message 2: by Molly (new) - added it

Molly Oh, I totally felt "meh" about this one, too, and was so secretly glad when it didn't get the anticipated Printz nod! Glad I'm not totally alone in my opinion.


Sandi Yes! You hit the nail on the head here.


Caroline Agreed!


Marsha I disagree...Yes, the story contains some brash and crude moments, buy you know what? That is what life is like on the rez...After my husband and I listened to the CD we encouraged our 18 year old son to listen to it too. Why? Because it's real. You can go to any reservation in the U.S. and I guarantee you that there is a JR nearby. One other thing who ever said that Alexis wrote this book for western society? I don't think he did and your comments prove it.


Brandon While I think you're right about the Bulimia, I also have to agree with Marsha that the overall arc of JR felt true. The character's breezy self-interest may have been necessary for his survival, which is to say a flaw of character is not a flaw of writing.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Well said Marsha and Brandon. I also live on the Rez and concur with most events. I also feel that I should mention that this book is based on events of his life.


Julie S. Still, I thought it was odd that bulimia was never mentioned again.


Isaac Hamlet Brandon thank you. I cope with crap with a breezey attitude i can only imagin how I would think if my entire life was crap. I'm not sure how many people know this book is heavily based on his life. If they where aware of it and gave the same review I would acknolage thier opinion, though even if they don't i still respect it.


Michael Interesting to read these comments on my long-ago review lo these years later. I still stand by my two-star rating—which, for the record, means "It was ok." Not that it was bad, or unbearably lousy, or any such thing. It was okay. Didn't love it. Didn't dislike it. Thought it was okay.

Most of the users of this website swiftly lose track of what the star ratings mean, and it grows tiresome to see them complain about a rating of "okay" or "liked it" (two stars or three stars). People don't love the same books you do; it's a matter of taste and context for each reader.

Which leads me to my "it was ok" rating for this book.

I don't doubt that the novel is inspired by events in Alexie's life. Were this billed as memoir instead of as a novel, I would have responded to it differently. (The latter suggests a form imposed on it by the writer; the former is more a document without the artificial tidying of fiction.) But as a novel, this left me wanting.

Is this because I'm a westerner as someone above alleges? I dunno. I'm certainly a fan of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, though really, who gives a damn with regards to any specific book. Each book is its own animal, and each deserves its own rating.

Whether or not that reader's response to a book jibes with your own shouldn't matter to you or to anyone else. De gustibus and all that.


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