The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


The Story of a Nomad…

The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part Time Indian is a story of a young “nomad” in a quest to find truth, strength, and to gain what he deserves. Written by Sherman Alexie , he has explored the tense struggle between the white and Indian worlds for 15 years. A New York Ties Best Seller, The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part Time Indian, is one of Sherman Alexie best books yet. This book puts readers in the shoes of the Native Americans, you get to know their struggles and how it has affected every aspect of their lives. 

Arnold Spirit (a.k.a Junior)  is a young Native American boy growing up on the Spokane Reservation. Junior was born with many medical problems and everyone picks on him for that. It seems that a person like him would be an outcast and no one would like him, but he has one best friend who will always be there for him, Rowdy. The only way Arnold can have a perfect life is through the cartoons he draws. However, life on the reservation is very difficult. Everyone single person is living in poverty, there’s so much death, hunger, addictions, and a great lack of education. 

One day in school, Junior beams his geometry book at the teacher and gets suspended from school. “My school and my tribe are so poor and sad that we have to study from the same dang books our parents studied from,” Arnold says. “That is absolutely the saddest thing in the world.” When the teacher (Mr. P) who was hit with the book, appears at Arnold's home, Arnold was absolutely afraid that his teacher would beat him up like other kids did. However, Mr. P came to give Arnold a piece of advice. He tells Arnold to leave the reservations because he has seen to many promising students - such as Arnold’s sister, Mary Runs Away - fade year by year, beaten down by poverty and hopelessness. “The only thing you kids are being taught is how to give up,” Mr. P. says. The is the beginning of Arnold’s journey to seek truth and strength. 

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” follows Arnold on his journey from leaving the reservation. He transfer to from Wellpit to Rearden High school, 22 miles away where a bunch of wealthy white kids attend.  He is the only Native American there and he fears that he will become a victim of the big bulky jocks. His “rez toughness” gained him some respect to even land him a spot on the varsity basketball team. 

But back at home, he can’t win back the loves of his neighbors. He is considered a traitor. Everyone believes that Arnold feels superior to the rest of the Indians now that he goes to a “white” school filled with computers and new text books. Arnold’s best friend even turns his back on him. When Reardan plays Wellpinit High in basketball, the Indians boo him the whole game, a race riot nearly breaks out. Triumph and grief come in equal measure. Arnold concludes that he’s smarter than most of the white kids, and wins the heart of a white girl named Penelope. Arnold also becomes friends with a kid named Gordy who is the school genius. Meanwhile on the reservation, his father’s best friend is shot and killed, and his sister dies in a trailer fire. Shuttling between Wellpinit and Reardan, Arnold begins feeling like a part-time Indian. He is Junior on the rez, where he is an outcast, and at school in Reardan he is Arnold.

The way the story is narrated, it feels as if the writer is engaging in a conversation with you. It’s genius because not only does the reading flows, but the narrative itself is apart of a story. Arnold narrating the story delivers one clear message that has brought him, his family, and his ancestors down. That Indians are good for nothing and they deserve what they have. Time and time again, Arnold will say something that shows how ingrained self-hatred is. This, as much as facing racial problems, poverty is perhaps Junior’s most important challenge. I get a sense of purpose in the storytelling.

You know you are reading an amazing book when it breaks you heart into a tiny million pieces. This book doesn’t really sugar code anything. You’re punched in the face with hard reality all throughout the book. It’s starts from the moment the father had to shoot their dog, Oscar, because they didn’t have the money to take him to the hospital, then to when the father would be gone all Christmas because he didn’t have money to buy the family presents. And finally how everyone kept dying of the same thing. Alcohol. But to lighten the mood a little, there are Arnold’s drawings inserted in the book that bring much needed humor. 

The most impressive thing about this book, is that all the horrible, tragic things that happens to Arnold, it doesn’t really shock him. The worst thing is that he accepts it as if it’s apart of his daily life. It’s just completely normal to him. 

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about how racial issues can affect self identity. Also to anyone who just wants to know more about Native Americans on a personal level.  “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is a truly amazing book about overcoming boundaries which leads to finding a greater strength within. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexei, Little, Brown And Company, 2007, 230 pages, Race Relations Fiction, Diaries Fiction. 

My Creative Piece is how I interpreted the overall message of the book. I still felt like Arnold's dreams weren't full fulfilled. So using the laser cutter at my job, I rastered an image of a dream catcher with the phase "Dreams Almost Captured".