This is the story of a young Indian living on a reservation, with just about everything against him. He has medical issues that set him apart, and he looks “funny” and different from the rest of his peers. One day, he decides that he can’t live on the reservation for his entire life– he wants to travel and to make something more of himself than to fall victim of the poverty and alcoholism that pervades the reservation. So, he convinces his parent to enroll him in the white school in the suburb in the town just outside the reservation. There, he grapples with self-identity and friendship.
This is the story of a young man overcoming adversity with courage he isn’t always sure he has, and with this intense ability to address some of the most serious moments in life with perfectly times comedic release.
I really enjoyed seeing high school replayed through the eyes of a teenager who has seen just about everything under the sun but who still looks at life as though he has something new to learn every day. He has been to numerous funerals on the reservation, mostly due to alcohol in some way or another. When he must face the death of a loved one, he fluctuates between grief and introspection that astounds readers (or at least this reader).
Punctuated with cartoons, this is a timeless piece of literature for teens and adults alike. It is both insightful about the uniqueness of Native Americans and experiences on the reservation and incredibly relatable to anyone who has struggled through high school.
It was really enjoyable to be able to talk about this book with people who has also read it because there was so much packed into the pages that it’s easy to forget about the smaller moments until someone else points them out. We all laughed and shared favorite cartoons from the novel, which I believe really set this book above others as a standout piece for YA Lit. We also discussed the real struggle that Sherman Alexie must have gone through in order to put this book together as a fictional autobiography. It was interesting to hear others talk about having heard Alexie give talks and read the book aloud. Lastly, it is always amazing to me to hear what other people come up with throughout the book in way of literary questions. As someone who hasn’t been trained to read critically, to be in a discussion group with current and former English teachers, it’s really insightful to see how others look at book that I read mainly to absorb plot points.
Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, NY: Little Brown.