The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Little, Brown Young Readers (2007)
Reviewed by Emily Judah (age 13) for Reader Views (1//08)
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” was a very interesting book. When I read the first chapter it was totally different than what I expected as I picked it out without knowing anything about the book.
Arnold, who prefers the nickname Junior, is a 14-year-old Spokane Indian who lives on a reservation in Des Moines, Iowa. He was born with too much cerebral spinal fluid in his skull. When he was a baby he had to have surgery to remove some of the excess fluid from around his brain. The surgery resulted in some physical problems — like Junior having forty-two teeth, being nearsighted in one eye, farsighted in the other, his feet being size eleven in third-grade, and having a stutter and a lisp. Because of his appearance and lisp, Junior is picked on by everyone except his best friend, Rowdy, who is one of the meanest Indian kids that ever lived. On top of all of that, Junior’s family is poor just like all of the other Indians on the reservation.
All the Spokane kids go to the same school that their mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers went to. All of the kids seem to fall into the same cycle as other generations. They graduate, get a small, low-paying job, drink too much alcohol, and live the rest of their life without hope. Junior knows that he will end up just like the others if he doesn’t work for his dreams and leave the depressing ways of reservation life. One day Junior’s white math teacher, Mr. P, stops by to talk to him. As they talk Mr. P explains that going to the school on the reservation will likely crush all of his chances of making something of himself and suggests Junior transfer to Reardan, a more promising school 22 miles away from the reservation. After long and careful thinking Junior makes the difficult decision to leave the reservation school and go Reardan. Junior knows he is the first student ever to leave the reservation school and understands how hard the transition will be. The remainder of the book is about Junior’s struggles in a new environment, constant battles with old friends and finally the struggle to do the best you can and never give up.
I thought that “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” had a very good storyline. I learned what minorities go through in their everyday life, and how they feel. In the book there were some places with very mature subject matter, but the author did a good job of putting them in places that helps the reader peek into the struggles of youth. I felt like I knew exactly how Junior felt. Overall, I really liked this book. I would recommend “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” to ages 14 and up.