The Absolutely True [Review] of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Publisher: Anderson

Published: September 2007

Genre(s): YA, aboriginal, contemporary, humour

Synopsis (via goodreads.com):  

An all-new edition of the tragicomic smash hit which stormed the New York Times bestseller charts, now featuring an introduction from Markus Zusak.

In his first book for young adults, Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist who leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white high school. This heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written tale, featuring poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, is based on the author's own experiences. It chronicles contemporary adolescence as seen through the eyes of one Native American boy.

Excellent in every way' Neil Gaiman

Illustrated in a contemporary cartoon style by Ellen Forney.

There was a point when reading this where I instantly went from thinking it was, "pretty good," to "HOW HAVE I NOT READ THIS YET!?"

I think I initially had reservations (no pun intended) because I wasn't really buying Junior's acceptance into the [white] Rearden high school system. But this is semi-autobiographical, and in hindsight it took Junior a looooong time to make friends, and basketball was the connection that finally let him feel like he somewhat belonged in this "other world"...  Unfortunately, merely the act of going to a school off of the reservation alienated him from his tribe, and he was left feeling like he didn't belong in either world.

Sherman Alexie juxtaposes the two worlds of Reservation vs. Outside Reservation and I was fascinated by all the different "rules" that Junior had to navigate in each world. 

Also, being Canadian (and metrically minded), I couldn't wrap my head around walking 22 miles to and/or from school (on harsher days...). According to Internet, one can briskly walk 1 mile in about 20 minutes (on average). According to Calculator, that would mean Junior had to walk for 7.5 hours if someone didn't stop and pick him up/ drop him off. Whaaaa?!!

I know the exact point where I became obsessed with ...Diary of a P-T Indian: I misread a sentence where Junior was explaining that some of the major differences between Indians and non-Indians were 1) their toxic relationship with alcohol, and 2) the amount of funerals they attend (and that usually the two are connected...). I READ the sentence as "I'm fourteen years old and I've been to two funerals" which I thought was sad. Then I went back and realized he wrote FORTY-TWO FUNERALS. As this was towards the end of the novel, it was like a punch to the gut, and made me see the previous 198 pages in a new light. I am so impressed that through all of their hardships, the tribal sense of community, and their sense of humour, kept [keeps] them all from falling apart.

Throughout the novel Junior / Alexie deflects many of the anger and sad truths of living as an Indian in America with humour, and humorous cartoons. Alexie also has this young teenage Indian process all of the changes in his life through drawing and writing. And the impact is wonderfully and undeniably heart-wrenching.

I am an insta-fan of Alexie's and have added his other works as MUST READS. It's an amazing feat to be able to effectively share personal moments of happiness and heart-wrenching sadness with a complete stranger with the hopes of making them understand a world that most aren't privy to.

 ~ SJ

It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it (13).

[On success in basketball] ... my coach and the other players wanted me to be good. They needed me to be good. They expected me to be good. And so I became good.
I wanted to live up to expectations. 
I guess that's what it comes down to. 
The power of expectations.
And as they expected more of me, I expected more of myself... (180).

Yep, we were, like, ten feet off the ground, but I was still able to reach out and steal the ball from Rowdy. 
Even in midair, I could see the absolute shock on Rowdy's face. He couldn't believe I was flying with him. 
He thought he was the only Indian Superman (192).       

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