The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

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12 Comments on “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie”

  1. Stephanie Haddad says:

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was an interesting book, displayed Junior’s distinctive view on the Indian versus White culture. I loved the various chapter titles—they described the chapters perfectly, and the rhythm they gave the book was remarkable. Everything flowed so well… I often forgot the problems Junior suffered with his brain. He was a bit strange, but he spoke fairly eloquently aside from the curse words dropped here and there. But that just showed me that Junior was your average angsty teenager… He was mad, furious and these diaries were a perfect way of allowing him to let out steam both through his writing and cartoon drawings.
    “My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people… ” (11). I think Sherman Alexie did a great job by bringing this quote into the book. This line was great and gave the readers an idea of Junior’s life on the reservation. And wow was the part with the dog poignant! I wanted to cry! That was the saddest thing in the world… Junior’s family didn’t have the financial resources to take their dying dog to the vet that Junior’s own dad had to pull the trigger… This part was so crucial to the book because it already showed me the surprising strength in Junior’s character.
    I LOVED the aspect of humor in the book… I often had to put it down and read the lines to my roommates because they were just so silly. “My head was so big that little Indian skulls orbited around it. Some of the kids called me Orbit. And other kids just called me Globe. The bullies would pick me up, spin me in circles, put their finger down on my skull, and say, ‘I want to go there’.”
    However, there were some strange moments in the book where I just thought, wow what’s going on? —For instance when Junior discovered the news of his sister’s death, he proceeded to laugh uncontrollably. What was important about this was that he couldn’t even understand why he simply couldn’t stop laughing. That was a little odd and that’s when I began to associate the weirdness with his brain problems—then again maybe everyone has his/her own way of dealing with tragedy.
    I really thought the cartoons made all the difference. They were so entertaining to look at and read—they showed me that Junior had a real passion and continued to dream “big” no matter how much suffering he ended up enduring towards the end with the death of his family members.
    There were some serious issues discussed in this book- rebellion, unjust social system, identity struggle, suicide… Some might think this book wouldn’t be appropriate for an adolescent reader, but I say it would teach them a great deal! Especially for any teen readers that struggle with their own identity—The drawing on page 57 was so strong- Junior depicts himself as a marvelous white person versus a poor, tragic case of an Indian. I think this drawing was important in that you see how much he craves to be integrated into the white culture, but then you see how he questions all of the deaths on the reservation to be a result of his betrayal to the reservation He’s torn between the two cultures, but deep down he loves the reservation no matter what.
    I think the mini discussion at the end of the book was a great way to get adolescent readers to delve even further into the meaning of the book.

  2. Meghan Warager says:

    When I began reading Part Time Indian I could not really get into the book. However, about 1/3 of the way in I became quickly hooked and would safely say this was probably one of my favorite books I read this semester. I think the rhetorical choice of Forney to side pictures and comments on the pages added not only to giving the reader more information in general, but gave us a clearer picture of the main character’s wit and humor. Which brings me to my favorite part of the book, the main character Junior. I think his sense of humor, funny perceptions and descriptions of himself and others, and “little engine that could” disposition the entire book made him such a lovable character that sucks the reader in to find out more about him and the story. I think by telling the story from his perspective gave the reader not only a humorous and enjoyable book to read, but also some history and insight on life of an Indian as an outsider in this country. One example Junior found the irony of Indians celebrating thanksgiving, and asked if Pilgrims eventually destroyed the Indians, what do they have to be thankful for? I do not think I ever once on Thanksgiving thought about celebrating that day from the Indians perspective. Even though Junior had teen angst, it was not a whinny and “oh woe is me” teen angst, he found humor and determination through all of his situations. This was evident in the written text as well as the side pictures and comments.

    I would definitely recommend this book to a 8th grader. Possibly 7th. There definitely are some sexual and inappropriate material in the book (discussing masterbation and the metephorical use of it) which I do not think younger kids would understand the comparison or appreciate at it as humor. However by 7th and 8th grade I think this book would provide an entertaining way to learn about a different culture and perspective. Out of all the other “cultural books” (for me at least since I identify as white middle to upper class) this was probably my favorite and I think a lot of different young adults would agree and be able to relate to it. For instance, everyone can relate to the awkwardness of high school, going through a rough sports team try out, maybe not having enough money to take the pretty girl at your school to the prom or on a date etc.

    One last thought, this book kind of reminded me of Star Girl, but for a slightly more mature audience since it dealt with slightly more mature content. I would say this is the next step up from Star Girl.

  3. Evan Phail says:

    Class issues pop up a lot in the book. But in an interesting and unexpected way it showed that not only are people similar in all the nice ways but that people are also similar in mean ways. The rez basically shut down Junior when he comes back to play against their team. The hatred that they felt toward someone from their own area was so surprising yet unfortunately so human.
    Class also brings with it race and racism. As Junior put it, it’s a cycle of making people think that they are stupid and ugly because they’re poor, because they’re Indian, because they’re destined to be poor. It was a cycle that Sherman Alexie really tackled accurately. He was also very funny but very deep in a lot of statements. Such as when he says that poverty doesn’t teach people lessons or give them strength to persevere, it just teaches them how to be poor.
    There was a lot of humor in the book and I think that’s what makes it different than normal books. Usual books would give a distressing story about Junior’s situation however the humor makes the audience remember that Junior can still have fun and find joy even out of such harsh times. I think I really liked this book because of all the humor, however there were too many penis and masturbation jokes. I could probably do without all of that.
    I’m not sure if the images were really necessary however. As Shane said in class, an author should be able to paint a picture with words and not need images. At first I disagreed with Shane when it came to Persepolis because that was something that I felt had to be taught through the graphic form, however, in Part Time Indian I felt that the pictures weren’t necessary. The only thing I could see them affecting the book is that it reinforced Junior’s character as a cartoonist. Also there was one picture that stuck with me on page 57 when Junior compares himself to the white kids at Reardan. The Glad garbage book bag was definitely something that helped by seeing it compared to the Reardan kid.
    Also it was interesting to see the book tackle other issues such as eating disorders with Penelope and alcoholism with so many other characters. Especially with alcohol, Sherman Alexie shows a personal tie to the many tragedies because of it.

    Coach was the Archie for me. He believed in Junior more than I expected and he supported him so well. Gordy was also a really strong character for Junior to rely on.

    Lastly, the quality of the writing was really strong throughout the novel as well. Some lines just made you sit back and think.
    “The world, even the smallest part of it, is filled with things you don’t know” (97)

  4. lmaalexander says:

    This was my favorite book this semester. I loved it so much that I’m not even a little embarrassed to admit that I teared up a few times while I was reading it. I loved every one of the characters, I loved the relationships they had with each other and I loved how honest the book felt. Ok, now I’m just gushing about my love for this book, but rhetorically I thought it was really interesting too.

    I don’t think I would classify this as a graphic novel, because the drawings felt more like a sketch book to me than anything, but I think the drawings were one of the most important parts of the book. Art, especially cartoons, are such an integral part of Junior’s life that I thought it was only fitting that they be so prevalent in the text. I loved how the drawings became darker as the novel went on too. In the beginning, I felt like they were fairly straight forward and simplistic, but as the novel progressed, they should a much darker sense of humor. The one page that depicts how to determine who gets the last slug from a bottle of wine, for instance, is incredibly dark. Eugene has just been shot in the face and killed, but Alexie chose to add a kind of humor to the moment, even though there is absolutely nothing funny about the situation. What was also really interesting about the illustrations was the Alexie himself didn’t draw them. The cartoons were drawn by Ellen Forney, who is interviewed at the end of the book. I thought this was a really unique choice on Alexie’s part. He has created such a powerful, moving story, but there is this huge part of the story- the illustrations- that he didn’t create himself. He turned creative power of the cartoons over to Forney, and yet somehow Alexie’s writing and Forney’s cartoons gel seamlessly and feel like they all came from the same artist.

    Another thing that I thought was so interesting about the rhetorical structure of this book was how many amazing one liners there were. Not in a humorous way, but there was so many sentences that I literally just read over and over because they were so powerful. One in particular that stands out in my mind was on page 188. It says “So many ghosts.” That’s it. It’s right before the second basketball game against Wellpinit, and Junior is thinking about all the people he has lost in his life. But Alexie doesn’t expound on the idea at all. He says this one sentence, and moves on and yet I kept thinking of how powerful those few words were. I think those three words are one of the main threads in this novel, and the fact that Alexie just dropped them in in such a straight forward, no non-sense way shows what a powerful writer he is. Reading that line for me was definitely a “Why the hell can’t I write like this?” moment, and it made me love this book even more.

  5. Luke Lyons says:

    This is a sad story but I wasn’t able to get that from the audio book. Don’t get me wrong, Alexie reads well and is able to portray some sense of emotion but I regret not reading the book. I feel as if I could have and should have created my own ambiance as I walked along Junior’s tragic journey. When listening to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, it just sounded like Alexie was constantly listing bad things that were occurring. And it made me feel uncomfortable because it’s as if someone was constantly reading of a list of unfortunate circumstances to you and you couldn’t do anything about it! Junior had it the worst.

    I also feel like I missed huge portion of the book by listening to it. All of the cartoons that were drawn in the book (obviously) did not come out in the audio at all. If there was any part of the text that was rhetorically significant, I couldn’t tell. It seems as if the book was RIDDLED with brilliant rhetorical choices that I simple was not able to be a part of. Thank God I had already bought the book so I could appreciate what Alexie did. I honestly think that it was a mistake for this book to be on audio because of how necessary it is for one to marvel at the visual element that Alexie gives off. Why go through the trouble of utilizing great rhetorical devices to only have them stripped away when read over audio? In retrospect, it was a poor decision for me to wait to do my digital response of this book. Alexie’s tone throughout the entire 5 hours of the reading had subtle changes but in the end, I would have much rather read the book myself. It was difficult to emerge myself in the life of Junior and care anything about what was going on in his life. Yes I felt sorry for him but my feelings for Junior’ struggle of being extremely mistreated were as ephemeral as Junior’s pride in himself. All in all, the audio version of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian wasn’t bad but I regret listening to it. I’ll probably read it myself sometime in the near future, and wind up hating myself when looking at the dichotomy between the written text and the oral text.

    Sorry class but I made a huge mistake!

  6. kbronner says:

    There are so many things that I could say about this book. I did really enjoy reading it, and I think it’s because I could really connect with Junior. His tone is matter-of-fact and relatable. He is also funny and straightforward. I feel like he’s one of the most honest narrator’s that we’ve had. Alexie, telling the book from Junior’s prospective, allows the reader to see so much more than we would if another character on the reservation told the story. Junior becomes a “part-time” Indian because once he starts to attend an all white school in a neighboring town, many of the people on his reservation become unhappy with him. At the same time, he doesn’t quite fit in at the white school in many ways. This concept reminded me of Mexican Whiteboy, but I just didn’t feel as interested in it as I did in Part-Time Indian.
    I
    n addition to addressing issues of class and race, Junior has to deal with many other rough issues. However, Alexie keeps Junior’s character constant and relatable to the reader. As Stephanie mentioned, Junior doesn’t always deal with things in a “normal” way—but it almost made him more endearing to me.

    As for Alexie’s choice to include pictures—I agree with Laura that I wouldn’t classify this as a graphic novel. The pictures don’t seem worthy of any separate mention of the book because they are incorporated so fluidly. They are just another part of Junior’s character, and another way for the reader to get to know him. On page 213, a chapter called “My Final Freshman Year Report card,” is just a picture that Junior has drawn of his grades. Since this came so late in the book, I felt that I would know what Junior would say about it, so that the picture was simply enough for me. It’s interesting to note that Ellen Forney drew all of the pictures–this just confirms that Junior is such a strong character that she was able to make every picture so connected to his thoughts and emotions.

  7. Lindsay Webster says:

    gahh ok so i just lotioned my hands and it’s incredibly difficult to type…

    I LOVVVEEEEE this book!!!! I read it a couple of years ago, and the only things I could remember about it going in for a second time, was Junior’s relationship with Penelope and the final basketball game against the rez team. The second thing is completely understandable to remember, but the first!!? after reading it this time, I’m struck by how little the Penelope situation really stands out. It’s important, I’m definitely not saying it’s not- but every other relationship-type-thing we’ve encountered this semester has had some sort of definition too it. They were together or not together, they were pining after each other, or one of them was oblivious- but Junior and Penelope are a whole different brand. I think it’s interesting to think about it rhetorically. The story wasn’t about them being together at all, but was is so much more necessary because of the intended audience, TEENS, needing that romantic connection?? Or am I just talking out of my butt because it really reflected, in a LITERARY sense, Junior’s integration into the white community.

    I agree with Laura and Kristyna that the book shouldn’t really qualify as a graphic novel- it’s much more about class… or multiculturalism. I vaguely remember a class day in the distant past that we discussed where this book might be better located on the reading list…. Maybe with Mexican WhiteBoy? In the discussion with the artist section in the back of the book, Ellen Forney describes how her collaboration with Alexie worked- he would send her chapters and she would draw what struck her. I always thought that it worked pretty seamlessly, but the cartoon at the end of a chapter, page 213, where I kind of wish it hadn’t been there at all. Junior is coming to this big realization that people actually care about him, and I just don’t think that the art is necessary- it doesn’t really connect as obviously with what is happening, and i think without it, the change in Junior’s world could have echoed, rather than sort of snuffed out, or capped by this irrelevant picture.

    In class, you hinted at the fact that Junior’s speech impediment could be easily forgotten through the story, and DAYUM were you right. It’s never mentioned again, no one ever teases him about it, and actually if you pay attention, OTHER people stutter in THEIR dialogue. I wish I could give a page number here, but I had a dog sleeping on one of my arms for the majority of the time I read this book, so few things are underlined….

    The most important thing that I loved about Alexie’s writing was his ability to integrate these crazy honest strange beautiful perfect moments into the book, that are equal parts strange and true. They may have had the ability to be completely removed from the text, with none the wiser, or maybe they could have played out in a different way with no effect to the story- but they are placed purposefully and perfectly. here’s a short list:

    pg 163 when ted the creepy rich guy comes at grandma’s funeral and attempts to return “her” tribal outfit
    pg 204 when junior can’t stop laughing after he discovers that his sister died
    pg 207 “I reached out and wiped the tears off my father’s face, and tasted them”
    pg. 210 when Junior finds Rowdy in the woods after his sister’s funeral, and he laughs like a crazy man, and rowdy cries, and they roll around on the ground

    and then here are some parts that just really stuck out to me as awesome rhetorical choices or just plain awesomeness:

    pg 219: beginning of the chapter, “The reservation is beautiful. I mean it. Take a look.” and obviously we can’t- but there was a conscious choice to NOT put a cartoon here.

    the roundabout connection of “the tribe”- page 176 Junior says, “I used to think that the world was broken down by tribes… By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn’t true. The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not.”

    and then later, pg 217 Junior lists all the tribes he belongs too: Cartoonists, chronic masturbators, teenage boys, beloved sons etc.

    it’s effing perfect.

  8. Katie McLean says:

    I read this book over Thanksgiving break, so I feel a little fuzzzzzzy.

    But, the book was so well done. I think that Sherman Alexie’s way of telling the story was so powerful. Junior’s drawings completely added to his innocence and naiveté. Although he was not completely unaware of the issues in his life, I think Alexie made it so that Junior took away from how serious they were. The drinking, the poverty, racism. I read this book a while ago for a North American Indian class (anthropology), and of course the class focused on the stereotypes that Native Americans face and life on the reservation. The second time around, it was hard to shake off these themes, but I still think they are extremely relevant to adolescence.

    So, rhetorically, Alexie made a great choice to include drawings. It gave the reader insight in understanding the world through Junior’s eyes. It helped the reader understand his disabilities, and his blunt attitude.

    I do think that Junior’s complete adaptation to an outside-the-reservation high school was somewhat unrealistic. I would think that those kids would treat Junior more like an alien. It was also beautiful, to see those friendships formed, and how he was a like a refreshing glass of tall water to them.

    Penelope & Junior was also so touching, I like how Alexie chose this relationship to bring Junior into the high school community. So realistic. It’s on the list of what makes someone cool in high school.

    Great story though, really touched upon a lot of issues that Alexie did not OVER do, ya know? He took the stereotypes, made them feel real, convinced the reader without overstressing them. I liked it.

  9. Eliss Manon says:

    Eliss Mañon
    Adolescent Literature
    Michele Polak
    December 4th, 2011
    Response The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

    Reading this book made me think, how bad can a persons life be? Juniors life has been pretty bad since the day he was born since he was born with brain damage and it only keeps getting worse. He is clearly not very fortunate because he comes from a poor family and neighborhood but when he transfer schools it shows how he is trying to change his life because he want s to become someone and wants to break the cycle going on in his family.
    Although a lot of the events that happened in the book might have been seen as too much for a teenager to handle or for a teen reading the book, you have to think about the fact that Junior is a teen going through all of this and it is part of the hardships of life. You can also see how you many of the stuff that he goes through a teen can relate to some of those things. Teens would also be able to see how it is for an Indian growing up in America as if he was an outcast.
    Like Megan I never really thought about how the Indians felt when celebrating Thanksgiving from their perspective. I do recommend this book to teens because they can learn about a different culture and how a teen coming from nothing deals with the situations that come up in his life.

  10. carlagaynor2 says:

    I loved this book. Though I did enjoy the story line, I think it had more to do with the way it was written and Alexie’s diction throughout the story. It was one of those “damn, I wish I could write like that” moments for me. I noticed that Alexie wrote in the past tense in the book, like Junior was looking back on his life. This made me realize, from the beginning, that Junior does make it out of high school and his childhood alive, and still be able to make sarcastic comments about his life.

    Because it is written in the past tense, the book really can serve as a “teacher” for adolescents. At the end of chapters Junior often subtly reflects on his life. For example “He was an extremely weird dude. But he was the smartest person I’d ever known He would always be the smartest person I’d ever known” (Alexie 98). I feel that this book is probably appropriate for a 7th or 8th grader, and older, because of some of the content.

    I’m not sure if I think the pictures helped or deterred from the story. I wasn’t a fan of having them in the storyline. I think it took away from how powerful the text was, and I think that the text said everything that the pictures did and more. I got caught up studying the pictures a lot of the time and then would forget my place in the story. I do think that having the images in the book might make the story appeal to a larger audience though. Someone who does not like to read may see the images and be more interested than if the book was straight text. Because the cartoons are there, I would have liked to see one of them on the cover, in place of the Cowboy and Indian action figures though.

    Alexie’s style in writing the book makes for a quick, enjoyable read. He seems to use short paragraphs that work well, and may not be as stressful for a younger audience to read than long paragraphs. He also writes how Junior seems to speak, which would also appeal to a younger audience, as I said before, maybe 7th grader.

  11. Yuliana Baez says:

    The last book!!! I think this was a good book to finish the class. It was actually very pleasurable to read. It started off a little slow and started to annoy me because at this moment I don’t have a lot of time to read. As I continued reading I actually forgot about the time.

    I think that the way the author chose to write this book was very clever. I know when we speak in class sometimes we some of my peers would say “We can’t connect to the book because we never been through that situation” or something of that sort. But for this author to grab us emotionally was really amazing and I don’t think many authors have the talent to do so.

    Of course as a visual person I loved having the pictures there as well. Going into a comment Carla said she found herself studying the pictures a lot and she would forget her place. I believe she went through that situation because this book is not targeted for our audience it is targeted for young adults. Obviously, at our age we are going to be more analytical about these things. Someone who is around twelve is not going to look at it so rhetorically or maybe even notice their meanings. This is something we tend to forget.

    I would recommend this book for any book list and I would keep this book for future Adolescent Lit courses because this is a culture we do not see enough of. I would have never even thought about picking up this book if it wasn’t for this course. It breaks down stereotypes and it shows real life hardships which is something that I loved about this book.

  12. buckleitner says:

    Sarah Buckleitner

    Sherman Alexie is a genius. I read Part Time Indian as an adolescent, and it always stuck in my head as the fun book that taught a valuable lesson about a person’s wrapper not mattering. I loved it just as much during my second read through (I read it during my spare time over the summer) and found myself absolutely charmed by the layers of storyline that spoke to race, class and disability issues.
    By choosing to give Junior a voice that is both wise beyond his years as well as innocent, he manages to charm all sorts of readers–from reluctant seventh graders who had the book assigned for class (as I was so many years before) to analytical Adolescent Lit readers. That particular quality of the book is highly important because it makes the themes highly accessible to kids who otherwise wouldn’t ever be exposed to things like poverty on Native American reserves, or alcoholic dads, or any number of the other issues that Alexie brings up. It’s also important for kids who have had to deal with those sorts of issues; reading about abusive parents, alcoholism, or even getting picked on will help troubled kids feel less alone and a little more understood. So overall, Alexie’s intentional choice of voice for his main character was brilliant, and I don’t know if I’d have the wisdom to do so in my own writing.
    Another aspect of the book that added to its impact was the sketches. The way they varied in skill level, detail and so on depending on what was going on during the story was brilliant because it really pulled the reader into Junior’s world. They also make the story even more relate-able, because the basic cartoons could apply to anyone. The lighthearted nature of the drawings also helps to draw away from other serious themes in the book, and gives it a fun, almost humorous tone even as Junior’s suffering major setbacks.
    All in all, a fantastic books for adolescents and adults alike.