Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Content Alert: Some swearing
I’ve read a bunch of short stories by Sherman Alexie and knew enough about him to know that he’s considered one of the preeminent writers of our day. And even though I’ve read a lot, I still seem to harbor a prejudice that “serious” writers can’t be fun. But The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is really fun, and also so sweet and touching that I found myself sobbing into my treadmill several mornings in a row.
The book tells the story of Arnold “Junior” Spirit’s ninth-grade year. He’s lived his whole life on a Spokane Indian reservation in Washington state, attracting bullies because hydrocephalus as an infant left him with a larger, more fragile skull than the other boys his age. When he unexpectedly chooses to leave the rez to attend high school in a neighboring town, he encounters challenges that he couldn’t have fathomed when his life was defined by the borders of the reservation. While some of his challenges are the universal to growing up (a grandparent’s death, friend troubles, discovering girls) other problems are related to life on the reservation (the untimely deaths of other characters, poverty, prejudice, etc…). Alexie does a fantastic job narrating the story, and I felt completely won over by Junior by the end of the novel.