The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

April 9, 2018 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, )

diaryThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

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Open up the front cover of this book and read over the praise heaped upon it. Go ahead, take your time; there are about four pages for it all. I’ll wait.

*whistles*

All done? Great. I just wanted you to get a feel for what others have said about it, because I want to say that it is all deserved. This is a fantastic book about coming of age against all odds, set firmly in the real world, against a culture about which we should all know more. It has pain and happiness, failure and success, humor and sadness, sometimes all happening at the same time.

Alexie creates vivid characters. Arnold, our main character and narrator, stands out among them all, but not at the expense of Rowdy or Penelope or Gordy, or even Arnold’s parents. They all stand out as unique individuals, even though they’re part of Arnold’s story.

Alexie also gives us a closer look at what it means to grow up on a reservation. This, I think, is the most important part of the novel. Anyone can relate to the Arnold’s trials, but it’s important for kids — privileged white kids especially — to see what it means to grow up outside of the establishment. I’ve heard (and believe) that reading fiction makes people more compassionate and empathetic; this book will certainly do so.

While not a graphic novel, the book is heavily illustrated, and those illustrations serve an important part of the story. Arnold is a cartoonist and artist, so those drawings give us further insights into what he thinks and, more importantly, what he sees. Ellen Forney captures the heart and sensibility of the story through her illustrations, enough so that it would be hard to imagine the story without them.

This is a fantastic story. It reminds me somewhat of Stargirl in subject and theme, even though they’re very different stories. If I had to pick a favorite between the two books … well, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Both books are vivid, readable, engaging, and important. If someone came to me asking for a recommendation for one over the other, I would have to tell them to find more time to read them both. They’re just that good.

Started: January 14, 2018
Finished: January 18, 2018

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