A Review of
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie
This book is about a boy who was born with too much cerebral fluid inside his skull. This caused brain damage that gave him a ton of medical complications. He had 42 teeth instead of 32; he was nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other; he was super skinny; his hands, feet and skull were abnormally large; he had many seizures that just caused more brain damage; and he had a stutter and a lisp. So as you may guess, he was bullied quite a bit. He likes to stay inside and draw cartoons because it is “safer.” His name is Arnold Spirit, but most call him Junior. He lives on an Indian Reservation and goes to the local school with his best friend Rowdy. Rowdy is big, aggressive and very protective of Arnold. One day Arnold decides he is going to leave the rez school and go to Reardan, the white school 22 miles away, so he can get a good education. The book is about how he copes with poverty, bullying, death, and much more.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is engaging, funny and just overall well written. The main character Arnold only has one friend: Rowdy. Everyone else at his school makes fun of him and beats him up, but not Rowdy. Rowdy protects Arnold and they have a very strong friendship. They both like to read comics. Arnold like to draw cartoons for Rowdy. Their personalities really complement each other. I could really relate to this because I too have one really good friend that I do everything with. I am sure that many people have that one friend that is always there for you.
When Arnold tells Rowdy he is going to go to a white school, Rowdy is fraught with anger. He is upset that his best friend is leaving him for a bunch of white people. Arnold asks him to come with him to Reardan, but Rowdy refuses. I can understand how Arnold felt. When you have to do something for yourself, but your friend does not like it, it is difficult to chose between your own needs and keeping your friend. I think that if you must do something for yourself, do it your friend will get over it. If they don’t, they are not a real friend. For the rest of the book Arnold sticks with his decision but tries to get Rowdy to understand and to be friends with him again. I think that the writer did a really good job of showing how Rowdy seemed like he still wanted to be friends, but was too stubborn and insatiable to change him decision.
One of my favorite characters is Arnold’s Grandmother. She lives with him and has that old and wise but strong kind of personality. At one point in the book Arnold is being bullied by this giant guy Roger, and his friends. Roger finally pushes him over the edge and Arnold punches him in the face. Roger is stunned, and when Arnold challenges him to a fight he runs away. Arnold is very confused because where he comes from nobody ever runs away from a fight. He asks his Grandmother about it and she replies that she thinks that he respects him. Arnold thinks that she is crazy, but he trusts her anyway, and she turns out to be right. This and other things his Grandmother does make you lover her and respect her without even really knowing her. She does not have many lines or very important ones, but you will definitely lover her spirit.
As Arnold gains respect he falls in love with a pretty white girl and ends up sort of dating her. He also finds a new best friend of sorts. Never to be as good a friend as Rowdy, but certainly a good start. His name is Gordy and he is the smartest kid in the class. He is smart, friendly and gets metaphorical boners from reading. Arnold also tries out for the basketball team with no expectation that he will make it. He ends up surprising himself and making varsity starter as a freshman.
As I read this book I think about how now he has transferred to a white school, made friends, made varsity basketball, has a girlfriend, etc. So why is there still more of this book? You then realize that it was never just about fitting in at Reardan, but about making amends with Rowdy. The basketball team has their first game against his old school and Rowdy ends up knocking him unconscious. They only have one more game against them at the end of the year and Arnold is determined to beat Rowdy. He thinks that somehow if he does everything will be ok.
Besides Rowdy the book is also about his older shut-in sister, Mary, and how he inspires her; life as an indian; death; drinking; poverty; and much more. The book is very enjoyable and relatable, and emulates a story that could be very real. Absolutely real. Absolutely true.
Some Awards For True Diary
2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Fiction and Poetry
2009 Odyssey Award as the year's "best audiobook for children or young adults", read by Alexie (Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, LLC, 2008, ISBN 1-4361-2490-5).
2010 California Young Reader Medal, Young Adult Book (eligible to win once during its first four years)
The Diary was also named to several annual lists including three by the library industry.
"Best Books of 2007", School Library Journal
2008 "Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults", Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)
"2009 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults", YALSA
Some of my favorite characters