Madonnasharma'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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's review
Feb 19, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: awards-books, multi-cultural
Read from March 13 to 20, 2010

American Indian Library Association Award (2008) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Age level: High School by Sherman Alexie

I was totally impressed with the criteria for this award, which is very new and was only established in 2006. There is a three page list of guidelines that clearly expresses the purpose of portraying a true picture of the American Indian and his culture in the present and past. After reading this list, I gained a greater appreciation for the accomplishment of Alexie in his novel. Significant criteria, quoted from the web site (, that I think Sherman Alexie met with high marks include the following:
• Authentic and balanced characters will exhibit the wide range of positive and
negative human emotions, behaviors, reactions, and lifestyles.
• American Indian characters will demonstrate the ability to achieve success on
their own terms and in the context of Native cultures or communities.
• American Indian characters will demonstrate the ability to achieve success on
their own terms and in the context of Native cultures or communities.
• Books should present accurate portrayals of contemporary life among
American Indian teens in various geographical settings: on or near
reservations, villages, urban, and suburban areas.
• Challenges and obstacles faced by American Indian teens in the story's time
period should be realistic.
• There should be a balanced presentation between American Indian and non-Indian authority figures.

This book is definitely for high school students and provides an almost alarming mix of humor and downright sadness. I had some difficulty at first being bounced all over the place emotionally, but isn’t that what finding ourselves and growing up is. Arnold/Junior is a very interesting character and having two names fits well into the story line as it develops. There are many bad things about growing up on the “rez” that Junior shares with his reader, especially the theme of alcohol abuse. But Junior loves his family and his tribe, he is an Indian. Arnold also wants to make something of himself; he wants his dreams, which means he has to be part of the white world. The scene with his teacher Mr. P is very significant in developing the lessons I think Sherman Alexie is offering his reader. This conflict is partially played out on the basketball court, which is so appropriate for young adult males. I had a little problem with the fact that he became so accepted at the white school and so badly treated by his own people. It seemed a little too conceived and somewhat unbelievable, but there is no way that I understand what being an American Indian would be like. Perhaps, it is being the ultimate trader to turn your back on such a unique life style that was totally destroyed by the white man. The more I think about this book, the more I think I like it! I know I like the realization that Arnold/Junior arrives at when he knows that he belongs to many tribes: teenage boys, small-town kids, tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers, funeral-goers and the list goes on.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Mallory I actually read this book aloud to my eighth graders during student teaching. They were able to handle this book with no problem. I, on the other hand, was slightly uncomfortable by the language at times. I think that the story is one that has to be read with an open mind.

Donna Madonna,

I have this book on my to-read list. Your review is great and I look forward to reading it. In some ways Junior reminds me of Marcelo. He is dealing with an illness, internal struggles and racial struggles. How many adults deal with these issues? How unfair is it that a child would have to? While working with an anti-racism group, I met a wonderful lady who taught sensitivity classes. She was beautiful. Tall, olive skinned and long black hair that touched her spine. She was a Cherokee Indian and told us many stories about her cultural struggle. Because of her I read The Last Mohicans (again!). I came to admire EVERY cultural group that struggles with inequalities on a daily basis. This book could be used to focus on the individual differences among groups. We may not look alike but we all deal with the same issues.

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