Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
cartoon illustrations by Ellen Forney

14-year-old Arnold Spirit ("Junior") describes himself as a weird-looking dork Indian. Born with water on the brain, a talent for cartooning and a brilliant sense of the absurd, Junior's diary and cartoons chronicle his simultaneously tragic and outrageously funny attempt to escape from life on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Junior's parents want to support him in his new adventure, but their own alcoholism often interferes with their good intentions. Most of the other tribal members, including Junior's best friend Rowdy, think that Junior is just a traitor--an "apple" who looks red on the outside but is really white on the inside. Junior knows that he'll always be an indian...but he wants out of the society that seems to be mostly drunk indians killing themselves and each other with their destructive addictions.

Sherman Alexie's "semi-autobiography" is clearly based on real events and people near to the author's heart, and Junior's coming-of-age story will certainly appeal to adults as well as teens.

I predict that the Part-Time Indian will be included on high school required reading lists in the future, despite some minor cussing and a few references to teen masturbation. The writing is that good, and the story depicts a portion of American culture rarely addressed in modern literature.

Recommended HIGHLY for teens and adults, ages 14 and up.

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