In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.I'm going to be honest, I've had The Absoltely True Diary of a Part - Time Indian by Sherman Alexie for an incredibly long time but hadn't actually picked it up to read it yet. I DID so recently almost solely because of the most recent controversies surrounding the book being banned from certain schools due to content. It was banned for it's language, reference to masturbation, and "anti-Christian" ideas.
Junior is ostracized by the entirety of the population of the Reservation he lives on (save his own family) when he decides to go to school off the Reservation. Add that to the myriad of health problems he's faced since infancy and you've got a pretty good crap sandwich. He knows getting off the Reservation is the only way to make something of himself but he still has to go home to it every day after school and face the ridicule and the possible beatings that come with being a traitor.
I admire Junior. With all of his health issues and social issues you would think he would be rather weak. The courage it took him to leave his school on the Reservation and transfer to a school 20 miles away makes him so incredibly strong. In essence, he turned his back on his people. His friends. Well... friend. And in some opinions, his family. But they (his family) were all so incredibly supportive of him. I think that may have been the only reason he didn't collapse under the pressure of being only a "part-time Indian".
This book seemed so raw and honest and I think that scared some adults in to thinking it was not suitable reading for their students. Yes, Junior mentions masturbating, but the references are so fleeting they're negligible. And honestly, what teenage boy doesn't EVER think about it? Yes, he cusses, but again, it's nothing worse that what's heard on a regular basis in public, in some homes, and on television.
Junior feels like he's got nothing. He feels like his Reservation is a prison. You live there, you die there. You spend your life in poverty and with violence and without any expectation that you're going to become more than you are that very second. He loses more loved ones in such a short period of time than most adults can handle and come through on the other end ok. But he makes it. His family is poor, his dad is a drunk, and his sister runs away... but he makes it. He's put through the proverbial ringer and even though he's beaten and bruised he's more confident and sure of himself than he was beforehand.
The book kind of slaps you in the face with how honest it is. Junior questions things and hates things and cares about things... and the emotions that he feels just smack you in the face with how raw they are. It feels real. The look you get in to the life that he lives along with so many other people is incredibly eye-opening and sad.
It's definitely a book that will stay with me for a while. I don't think I'll be able to forget this one. You should take a look at it if you've been sitting on the fence about it. You won't be disappointed. I would, however, recommend it probably for 14 and up as there IS some bad language and mature ideas. Not because it's offensive and shouldn't be read, but simply because I don't think that anyone too young could even begin to comprehend what Junior Spirit goes through in his story.