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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Cover of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
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National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie delivers a captivating, semi-autobiographical account of oneSpokane Indian's struggle against incredible obstacles. Born poor and hydrocephalic, Arnold Spirit survives brain surgery. But his enormous skull, lopsided eyes, profound stuttering, and frequent seizures target him for abuse on his Indian reservation. Protected by a formidable friend, the book-loving artist survives childhood. And then—convinced his future lies off the rez—the bright 14-year-old enrolls in an all-white high school 22 miles away. "... delivers a positive message ..."—School Library Journal, starred review

National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie delivers a captivating, semi-autobiographical account of oneSpokane Indian's struggle against incredible obstacles. Born poor and hydrocephalic, Arnold Spirit survives brain surgery. But his enormous skull, lopsided eyes, profound stuttering, and frequent seizures target him for abuse on his Indian reservation. Protected by a formidable friend, the book-loving artist survives childhood. And then—convinced his future lies off the rez—the bright 14-year-old enrolls in an all-white high school 22 miles away. "... delivers a positive message ..."—School Library Journal, starred review

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  • AudioFile Magazine At birth, Arnold "Junior" Spirit survives brain surgery but he wonders if he will survive the Spokane Indian reservation, where he lives. The teasing about his lisp and stuttering is worse than the poverty and alcoholism that surround him. Rather than risk intellectual death, he transfers to a white school, where he and the school mascot are the only two Indians. The author's rhythmic reading brings out the lyricism of his writing. Like his hero, Alexie has a storyteller's voice: "that singsong reservation accent that made everything I said sound like a bad poem." Conversations are written with humor and verve, and delivered with punch and enthusiasm. The author's performance experience is clear in his pacing--from the slow, subdued style at a family funeral to the breakneck speed of a climactic basketball game. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 20, 2007
    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.

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2008
    Gr 8 Up-Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, is an unlikely hero in this semiautobiographical novel (Little, Brown, 2007) by Alexie Sherman. He was born with water on the brain, lives in abject poverty on an Indian reservation near Spokane, and is surrounded by the hopelessness of alcoholism. When a caring teacher recognizes that the boy still has hope, he insists that Junior leave the reservation school. Junior defies his tribe and enrolls in an all-white school 22 miles from the reservation. At Rearden he becomes known as Arnold, but acceptance comes very slowly. At first his classmates are wary and many are racist. When the football captain delivers a jaw-dropping racial slur, Arnold slugs him and is baffled by the fear he sees in the other boys' eyes. He realizes that the rules are different off the rez and he doesn't know the new rules. Through tenacity and humor, Arnold eventually finds a way to balance his part-time life on the reservation with his part-time life at school. The narration by the author is delivered in what Arnold might describe as the sing-song cadence of Indian speech. Poetic, deeply funny, politically incorrect, slightly naughty, and heart-wrenching, the story makes a flawless transition from print to audio. Sherman provides a glimpse into an unfamiliar culture and maintains a balance between the bleak reality of reservation life and the stunning beauty of a loving family and friendship. An essential purchase for all libraries serving older teens.Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School. Broken Arrow, OK

    Copyright 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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