Ashley'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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Dammit, I knew I should have written this review when I first finished the book, but I decided to push it off because it seemed too hard to try and sum up all my feeeeelings, but joke’s on me, now it’s even harder!

Sherman Alexie has been one of my favorite writers since I was in college and one of my English comp teachers made us watch Smoke Signals, which is based off Alexie’s short story, “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” and for which he also wrote the screenplay. I thought the film was hilarious (and sad) and so decided to look up the source material. I’m not usually one for short stories (even short story collections by my favorite authors, for instance Neil Gaiman, have a hard time holding my attention). I much prefer longer narratives (and as a young person, the longer the better) so as to really have the time and space to get invested. But for some reason, Sherman Alexie was instantly an exception. I own all his short story collections, and have re-read them several times. When I taught English comp myself, I regularly taught my favorite of his stories, “Dear John Wayne” as a way to have the kiddos engage critically on the subject of gender roles and race. In fact, until I read this book, I had ONLY read his short stories. Why did I do this? I have no idea. I love Sherman Alexie in short form, why wouldn’t I love him in long form as well, my preferred medium?

It also shouldn’t have surprised me that he’d be so good at writing for young people. He’s almost brutal about portraying the realities of the world as he sees it. Kids love that brutal honesty shit. We really shouldn’t coddle them if they’re willing to listen. They’re the ones it’s easy to change. He’s also hilariously funny, as per the usual. And what’s even better is that he’s funny in the service of his narrative, and not just to be goofy. The serious subject matter makes the jokes funnier, and the jokes make the serious subject matter hit home.

This thing seems like it popped up fully formed. (In large part, I’m sure it did, since it seems to be at least partly autobiographical.) Junior’s voice is so, so engaging and unique. The artwork is not only super entertaining (and moving), but it also seamlessly interweaves with the narrative. The book wouldn’t have been the same without it. Alexie juggles so many balls in this book. It’s a coming of age story, and a story about growing up poor. It's about systemic racism, and the social realities of living on a reservation. The pervasive pessimism, the alcoholism. And yet, it’s also optimistic, and it does this without being cloying or naïve. Junior gets out and will ostensibly make something of himself, but not without a cost.

So yeah, I loved this book. Read it in one sitting. I need to own my own copy immediately. I also need to finally get on reading his other novels (Flight, Indian Killer, Reservation Blues). If they’re half as good as this book, I will enjoy myself immensely.

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Reading Progress

July 27, 2015 – Shelved
July 27, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
August 29, 2016 –
1.0% "I've only ever read Sherman Alexie's short stories, so this should be interesting! (Also, I've seen Smoke Signals. Great movie. He wrote the screenplay and the short story it's based on.)"
August 29, 2016 –
5.0% ""And it's not like my mother and father were born into wealth. It's not like they gambled away their family fortunes. My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people.\n\nAdam and Eve covered their privates with fig leaves; the first Indians covered their privates with their tiny hands."\n\nThis is highly quotable."
August 29, 2016 –
17.0% ""Well, that is a big difference between my sister and me. I hide the magazines filled with photos of naked women; my sister hides her tender romance novels that tell stories about naked women (and men). \n\nI want the pictures; my sister wants the words.""
August 29, 2016 –
42.0% ""'You read a book for the story, for each of its words,' Gordy said, "and you draw your cartoons for the story, for each of the words and images. And, yeah, you need to take that seriously, but you should also read and draw because really good books and cartoons give you a boner.'"\n\nNot where I expected that thought to go!"
August 29, 2016 –
56.0% ""
August 29, 2016 –
77.0% "I love this book."
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: addictive
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: americana
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: award-winners
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: bildungsroman
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: books-about-writers
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: class-gender-race
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: humor
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: manly-men-and-their-manparts
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: what-s-this-art-thing-all-about-yo
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: young-adult
August 29, 2016 – Shelved as: fiction
August 29, 2016 – Finished Reading
August 30, 2016 – Shelved as: illustrated
October 14, 2016 – Shelved as: epistolary

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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Abigail M. man i love your goodreads organization... (found this because this book is $1.95 on audible and i was checking to see what you thought of it)

Ashley I'm actually starting this book tomorrow for a book club discussion haha. Got it out of the library yesterday! Weeeeeird coincidences, man.

(I spent hours on the organization. Hours. I have a problem, but it is very easy to find books now!)

Abigail M. I support you in all your problems.

Abigail M. I listened to it and had no idea there was art!!!

Ashley Oh, you should track down a hard copy and check out the art. There is a lot of it, and it's worth the effort.

Julie I love love love all the illustrations, and some of the ones about racism pretty much snapped my heart in half -- but because of how it relates to characterisation & character relationships, that drawing of Rowdy is maybe my favourite in the entire book. Just for the way you can see the delicate, tender drawing underneath, but then this angry explosive defensive scribble near-obliterating it.

Ashley Julie wrote: "I love love love all the illustrations, and some of the ones about racism pretty much snapped my heart in half -- but because of how it relates to characterisation & character relationships, that d..."

I think that one is my favorite, too.

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