Author Sherman Alexie
Publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Teaser/Reader Annotation Junior, born with a medical problem that left him damaged, has always had a hard time fitting in on the reservation. When the opportunity presents itself for him to attend a better school, he grasps it with both hands and holds on firmly.
Plot Summary Arnold Spirit, Jr. (also known as Junior) is a Native American teenager and budding cartoonist who was born with an excess of cerebral spinal fluid in his skull. Because of the resulting brain damage and surgery, Junior is left with a number of physical problems. These differences cause him a great deal of difficulties with the other youths on the reservation. After he is suspended from school, Junior decides to take control of his life and transfers to Reardan – a school off the reservation whose population is the rich children from the all-white town where the school was built. Though he is treated as an outcast, Junior begins to enjoy Reardan. When he makes a new friend and develops a crush on students from his all-white school, he upsets Rowdy who has been his friend through thick and thin before now. He must now learn to balance his troubles, temper, and both his old and new friends.
Critical Evaluation The 2007 National Book Award winner in the Young People's Literature category and a mention on SLJ's Best Books of 2007, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a great book dealing with a number of important issues. Despite the tough subjects being dealt with, the novel delivers a positive message to its readers. The humor and writing style are well suited for the young adult audience to help them work through these difficult sections. While the author seemingly lost the plot a couple of times, he managed to pull things together in the end for a conclusive finish. The dialogue also suffered in certain areas, but it did not distract too horribly from the story. It also helps that the book is fast paced, pulling the readers through each situation, and moving the plot on in an efficient manner which is well suited to the teenagers for which the work was intended. Altogether, it was a book worthy of the awards and a spot in a young adult collection.
About the Author Sherman Alexie (October 7, 1966) is a writer, poet, and filmmaker who lives in Seattle with his wife and their two sons. His only young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was based on his own experiences. He was born in Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington with physical disabilities. Like the character Junior, he left the reservation to attend Reardan High School for better education. He went on to study at both Gonzaga University and Washington State University.
After completing school, Alexie went on to become a founding board member of a non-profit organization called Longhouse Media which teaches filmmaking to Native American youths. Alexie's other works and stories have been featured in short story anthologies, literary magazines and journals, and online publications. The majority of them feature Native Americans and draw on his own experiences just as this novel did.
Primary Genre Realistic Fiction
Secondary Genre Issues
Curriculum Ties N/A
There is a thematic element of alcoholism and abuse on the reservation. Discuss.
Reading Level/Interest Age 15+
Challenge Issues Sexual situation, language, violence, bullying
1) Become familiar with book and its content.
2) Refer to library's collection policies.
3) Refer to reviews from School Library Journal, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles.
4) Get reviews from teenagers who are familiar with the book.
5) Refer to the ALA Library Bill of Rights.
Why is it included? It was included because of the number of awards and recognition it has received.