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

21 Dec

I recently read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  It is the story of Arnold Spirit, better known as Junior, as he moves beyond the familiar world of the Indian Reservation and ventures into the ‘white’ world.

From the outset, we are invited to experience the world from Junior’s perspective.  We learn, for example, that this narrative is one told from the perspective of someone who is different, a boy “born with water on the brain” who had “ten teeth past human.”  However, Junior is not self-pitying.  Rather, he approaches his difference with humour, thus endearing himself to us.

Junior’s humorous commentary, however, masks some serious issues within his society.   We learn, for example, of the less than ideal educational opportunities offered on the reservation, and the way the alcohol abuse is damaging families and social cohesion.

These issues are made clearest when Junior decides to leave his school on the reservation and enrol at Reardan, a ‘white’ school 22 miles from the reservation.  As expected, Junior initially struggles in his new environment.  However, he eventually finds his way, and, in the process, comes to better understand himself and his world.

This novel functions well as a coming of age text for a lower ability Year 9 or 10 all boys class.  Indeed, it is a story about difference, acceptance and new understandings.  It is also a story about the challenges that individuals experience in order to move them towards new perceptions of self and others.

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