The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Back in October, I was in California visiting my sister, when I suddenly felt myself going into a mood. Sometimes, I just get like that. The mood is coming, I know it’s coming, I feel it coming, but I can’t get enough of a handle on it to avoid it. I consider these moody bouts a condition of being a pisces. Anywho, when those moods start to set in, without divine intervention there is going to be havoc for anyone around me who rubs me the wrong way.

For the first time, though, I tried a thing. I got up and took the keys to my rental car and drove straight to Barnes & Noble. I felt the hot air let out of my mood as I walked the aisles, and my spirit settled as I flipped through pages. Books = therapy (for me).

I picked up a couple of new books on this trip, and the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was one. This young adult novel is told from the point of view of an adolescent Native American boy living on a reservation who decides to change schools and go to the all-white school 20+ miles away from his reservation home.

This change leads to conflict within his community and tension in his relationship to his home, family, and life. As someone who has never been on a reservation and knows nothing of life on a reservation, this novel definitely did not paint a pretty picture for me. I’m always sensitive to how minority groups are portrayed when featured, rarely as it is, in literature. But, the novel also didn’t dehumanize the Native American characters it depicted. Even a characters (or here, several) with a drinking problem isn’t simply a drunkard, but can be someone who has lost hope, or who was never taught to hope in the first place. Further, Alexie recognizes that reservations are the way they are not because of some inherent fault of Native American people. We ALL know why resevervations (and America) is fucked up.

The story is somewhat simplistic, but then again, it is a young adult novel. 🤷🏾‍♀️ I did rather enjoy the intermittent “comics” that grace the pages, because they really give the book a spice that made it taste just like it was cooked up by a teenage boy. This one is a good read for teens.

-Dij

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