BOOK: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This wonderful young adult novel is about a teenage boy named Arnold Spirit, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, Washington. Arnold was born with “water on the brain,” and is a bit on the underdeveloped side, so he’s been the target of bullies most of his life. His way of coping? Drawing comics (many of which are “taped” into this diary) and playing basketball. And so far, life on the reservation has been fairly tolerable. He loves his family, troubled though it may be, he has a best friend who sticks up for him (aptly named Rowdy), and he’s managing.

But then he starts high school, only to find that the rez school is giving him the same textbooks they gave HIS parents. Twenty year-old math textbooks? Suddenly, the unfairness of it all overwhelms him, and Arnold makes the decision to quit going to school on the “poor-ass” reservation and start traveling 20 miles away to a mostly-white public school instead.

By leaving the rez, Arnold becomes an outcast in his own community, as well as an outcast in the all-white school he has started to attend. But it’s not long before he makes a few friends, and when his classmates see what he can do on the basketball court — and get a taste of Arnold’s personality — it’s not long before he goes from outcast to hero. Eventually, Arnold comes to terms with the two sides of himself — his white side, and his Indian side — learning how to balance the two and thrive in both worlds.

This coming-of-age novel is hilarious, powerful, and packed with stories of typical teenage problems (falling in love, losing a friend) as well as intense tales of reservation life (poverty, alcoholism). Arnold is irresistible, and it’s pure pleasure to get to take this peek into his “absolutely true diary.” Highly, HIGHLY recommended for teenagers and adults alike!

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