Okay, so, full disclosure: I’m cheating a little with this review. This isn’t my first time reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but the last time I read it was around fifth grade. Going into rereading, I didn’t remember much, except the fact that Alexie uses the word “faggot,” a lot (he doesn’t really, I think it just stood out because I was still shocked whenever I heard someone curse). As a 10 year old, I don’t think I really picked up on all of the themes and nuances of Alexie’s National Book Award winning novel, so I was excited to dive back into it.
“It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it. Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.”
One of the biggest differences in reading I had this time around was the fact that Junior, the main character, is my age now. It is such a weird feeling, going back to old favorites and being the same age as the protagonist. Even weirder is flipping past the copyright page ( it’s the one across from the title page) and seeing the 14+ age marker. I remember being 10, looking at that and feeling so proud for reading something that was marketed towards older kids. Now, I’m the older kid! So, in a way, I was nostalgic for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian before it even started.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian follows, Junior, a teenager growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Although he lives on the reservation, he attends school at a middle class white school nearby. Through this juxtaposition and many other challenges, we weave our way through Junior’s internal identity struggle.
My favorite part of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is, however, not the meaningful story, but the writing. Alexie portrays his teenage characters in a way I can relate to and understand. There have been few times where I feel an adult author can truly channel a teenage voice- and I am happy to say Alexie has managed to do it perfectly.
Part fiction, part memoir (Alexie is a native American who grew up on the Spokane reservation and went to a white high school), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, is a must read. Seriously though, it’s been out for a few years. You have absolutely no excuse for not picking it up.