Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian book cover.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a comical novel about Arnold Spirit Jr., called Junior by his friends and family, who is a 14-year-old living in poverty with his family on the Spokane Indian reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. In order to make sense of his world, he draws cartoons.

Like everyone else in his reservation, no one is doing much in their lives. They either turn into alcoholics or are unable go anywhere because of financial situations. Junior wants to change that so he decides to switch schools and goes to Reardan High (their mascot is an Indian) which is 22 miles away from Spokane. Junior decides if he does not go now, he never will. Junior tries to get Rowdy, his best friend to go to Reardan High School as well, but Rowdy hates that school in the sense that everyone in Reardan are smarter, better, and have hope. Rowdy now sees a traitor in the place of his once best friend. Junior’s reservation begins to resent Junior for this.

In Reardan, not only does Junior have to deal with racism, he has to deal with his own reservation’s opinion and outlook on him. In Spokane everyone knows everyone, so you can’t avoid other people on the reservation.

Junior was lonely and was being bullied for weeks. He was being called names by everyone bigger than him, calling him names like “Chief”. One day, Junior decides that enough is enough. The leader of the so-called “pack”, Roger, makes a very racist joke towards American Indians and African Americans, so Junior punches Roger in the face. Junior is ready to fight, but isn’t good at it, even with a feeling of preparedness. Everyone is shocked. No one fights in Reardan…it’s unheard of.

At Reardan High School, Junior falls in love with a girl named Penelope. She is smart, beautiful, and has hope—a lot of it. But she treats Junior like everyone else. Junior later finds out that Penelope is struggling with bulimia. Bulimia is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with this condition binge eat. They then take steps to avoid weight gain. Most commonly, this means vomiting. But it can also mean excessive exercising or fasting. Junior wants to know what was wrong and Penelope tells him. Junior tells her to “never give up”. This book addresses very large and important issues that are important as to understanding twenty-first century America. Issues that are faced by teenagers in schools, everyday, are presented in this novel, from racism, bullying, eating disorders, and varying familial lives. This book is not only a good read, but an important one.

Later Penelope publicly announces that Junior is cute which made everyone think that he is cute. Penelope is very popular. As Junior and Penelope start dating, Junior gains more popularity.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Book was the winner of the National Book Award in 2013 and selected by Malden Reads afterwards. I highly recommend this book to people who like comical books that teach many moral lessons.

Through the cartoons in the book, a visual is presented in a format where visuals otherwise may be lacking. This helps guide the reader as to the storyline and also proves a good way to incorporate different aspects into traditional novels.

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