Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Fourteen years old Arnold Spirit, also known as Junor, is growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junor is an artistic guy who likes drawing and drawing also helps him facing every day’s problems. His life is not wonderful but it gets even more complicated when Junor starts to attend a school outside the reservation. Attendance of High School, where he is the only non-white person is challenging, especially because he doesn’t feel accepted. Not only he’s not accepted by his new friends, but because of his retraining, he also becomes a target in a reservation.
I could say that this book really let me down. I heard amazing things about it, I saw that it also won a few prizes and I was so happy when I saw it in my local library (it was not translated, I read it in English).
Even while reading, I struggled with it. It was a slow read which really surprised me because it’s such a short book, full of illustrations.
I liked the idea of a book – a young Indian boy from the reservation is facing his origin while trying to cross the boundaries of his world. No one from his reservation has attended school outside the reservation before, let alone a school where all people would be white. Junior is aware that he would end up like all the other Indians if he doesn’t step forward and educates somewhere else. Despite the problems that this would bring him.
Arnold seemed a funny and nice guy, slightly lost in this world which is logical, according to his age and the period in his life. I really liked, how the author tried to show off Junior’s artistic side with “his” illustrations. Comics did really variate reading and they were the funniest part of the book. All the other characters were a little bit strange, each in his own way.
The story mainly focuses on Junior’s searching his place in the world – he doesn’t feel well in a reservation, he’s feeling guilty because he turned back to his tribe. But in the same time, he also doesn’t feel good outside the reservation, because he’s aware that he doesn’t belong there either and that people don’t accept him. Even though he’s more than successful by finding new friends.
Presentation of Indians in this book seemed grotesque to me. I admit, I don’t know much about the situations in reservations or about Indians in general. But yet, I had a feeling that it was too much humiliation in this book. Resorting to alcohol and consequently to violence, poverty and complete resignation, yes, it was shown through the humor, but it still left a bittersweet taste. But not the one it should. It all seemed too unreal and as a big joke.
I also found this book overambitious. The author included too many serious topics that were not developed further. Bullying, alcoholism, bulimia, first love, rejection, poverty are just one of them. Those were all the topics that have somehow lingered in the air.
A person can achieve everything he wants as only he has a desire and will to change things – I understood that this was the main topic in this book. However, I got a feeling that book gives a false hope for younger readers. Junior comes to a new school and things are going great for him. Everything is (almost) perfect suddenly. Yes, he may still have some problems but still he’s suddenly successful in everything (finding friends, popular girlfriend, success in school). It just seemed too perfect.
And, what I most blame the author for is that because everything was going so well for Junior, he just entangled a few totally unnecessary events (deaths) in the story. Why? Just to break a monotony? And that story continued like nothing happened? Nonsense.
I really felt this book a cliche story and too American. You know…. If you dream and you dare, you will also succeed.
Rating: 2/5 stars
What did you think about this book? I would love to hear your opinions in comments!