The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Annotation: Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Contains Mature Material
Catalog Number: #37123
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Teaching Materials: Search
Special Formats: Mature Content Mature Content
Teaching Materials
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition Date: 2009
Illustrator: Forney, Ellen,
Pages: 229 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-316-01369-2 Perma-Bound: 0-605-25446-X
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-316-01369-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-25446-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2007022799
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork with a decent jumpshot, spends his time lamenting life on the "poor-ass" Spokane Indian reservation, drawing cartoons (which accompany, and often provide more insight than, the narrative), and, along with his aptly named pal Rowdy, laughing those laughs over anything and nothing that affix best friends so intricately together. When a teacher pleads with Arnold to want more, to escape the hopelessness of the rez, Arnold switches to a rich white school and immediately becomes as much an outcast in his own community as he is a curiosity in his new one. He weathers the typical teenage indignations and triumphs like a champ but soon faces far more trying ordeals as his home life begins to crumble and decay amidst the suffocating mire of alcoholism on the reservation. Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt.  A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure. Younger teens looking for the strength to lift themselves out of rough situations would do well to start here.
Kirkus Reviews
Alexie nimbly blends sharp wit with unapologetic emotion in his first foray into young-adult literature. Fourteen-year-old Junior is a cartoonist and bookworm with a violent but protective best friend Rowdy. Soon after they start freshman year, Junior boldly transfers from a school on the Spokane reservation to one in a tiny white town 22 miles away. Despite his parents' frequent lack of gas money (they're a "poor-ass family"), racism at school and many crushing deaths at home, he manages the year. Rowdy rejects him, feeling betrayed, and their competing basketball teams take on mammoth symbolic proportions. The reservation's poverty and desolate alcoholism offer early mortality and broken dreams, but Junior's knowledge that he must leave is rooted in love and respect for his family and the Spokane tribe. He also realizes how many other tribes he has, from "the tribe of boys who really miss . . . their best friends" to "the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers." Junior's keen cartoons sprinkle the pages as his fluid narration deftly mingles raw feeling with funny, sardonic insight. (Fiction. YA)
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with water on the brain, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist's grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney's simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. Reluctant readers can even skim the pictures and construct their own story based exclusively on Forney's illustrations. The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner. Alexie's tale of self-discovery is a first purchase for all libraries.-Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 7-10-Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with water on the brain, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist's grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney's simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. Reluctant readers can even skim the pictures and construct their own story based exclusively on Forney's illustrations. The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner. Alexie's tale of self-discovery is a first purchase for all libraries.-Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

Screenwriter, novelist and poet, Alexie bounds into YA with what might be a Native American equivalent of Angela’s Ashes, a coming-of-age story so well observed that its very rootedness in one specific culture is also what lends it universality, and so emotionally honest that the humor almost always proves painful. Presented as the diary of hydrocephalic 14-year-old cartoonist and Spokane Indian Arnold Spirit Jr., the novel revolves around Junior’s desperate hope of escaping the reservation. As he says of his drawings, “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.” He transfers to a public school 22 miles away in a rich farm town where the only other Indian is the team mascot. Although his parents support his decision, everyone else on the rez sees him as a traitor, an apple (“red on the outside and white on the inside”), while at school most teachers and students project stereotypes onto him: “I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.” Readers begin to understand Junior’s determination as, over the course of the school year, alcoholism and self-destructive behaviors lead to the deaths of close relatives. Unlike protagonists in many YA novels who reclaim or retain ethnic ties in order to find their true selves, Junior must separate from his tribe in order to preserve his identity. Jazzy syntax and Forney’s witty cartoons examining Indian versus White attire and behavior transmute despair into dark humor; Alexie’s no-holds-barred jokes have the effect of throwing the seriousness of his themes into high relief. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

Voice of Youth Advocates
Nerdy, fourteen-year-old Arnold Spirit lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington state. During his first day at high school, Arnold discovers that his geometry textbook is so old that his mother used it in school. In anger, he throws the book at his teacher and is suspended. Recognizing Arnold's potential, his teacher suggests that Arnold transfer to a school off the reservation. There Arnold attempts to bridge Indian and white cultures-sometimes successfully and sometimes not-while at home, he faces the controversy of leaving the reservation and his own culture. The tension reaches a peak when Arnold returns to his former school for a basketball game as the star player on his new school's team. Alexie's portrayal of reservation life, with the help of a great lineup of supporting characters, is realistic and fantastical and funny and tragic-all at the same time. The story is engaging, but readers will also gain insight into American Indian culture and politics as well as a sense for human nature and the complexities of living in a diverse society. Cartoonist Forney's drawings, appearing throughout the book, enhance the story and could nearly stand alone. It is clear that she and Alexie worked closely together on this project. Recreational readers, especially boys, will enjoy this book, but teachers will also find it filled with lots of material to rouse a good classroom discussion. This first young adult novel by the acclaimed Indian writer whose adult fiction is used in many high school classrooms is based on Alexie's own memoir.-Jenny Ingram.
Word Count: 44,275
Reading Level: 4.0
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.0 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 117771 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.4 / points:13.0 / quiz:Q41873
Lexile: 600L
Guided Reading Level: Z+
Fountas & Pinnell: Z+

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.


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