The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
By Sherman Alexie

Interest Level: Grades 9 – 12
Reading Level: Grade level Equivalent: 3.4
Genre: Comedy and Humor
Realistic Fiction

Arnold Spirit was born with several cranial birth defects on the Spokane reservation in Washington State. He and his friend, Rodney, spent most of their time trying to avoid being beat up. They expected little of themselves, and others expected less. Finally, a white teacher who had help beat the Indians out of their culture and language years ago, wanted to apologize to Arnold for all the wrongs he had done to his people. He told Arnold that he needed to get out or he would become nothing like the rest of his people. Arnold began attending the white school in town 20 miles away. Sometimes he had to walk or hitchhike to get to school because there was no money for gas, or his father had spent his money on booze. Arnold must overcome the racism and prejudice both in town and on the rez. The one thing he has going for him is a killer 3 pointer in basketball.

I chose this book to read out of our ‘diversity’ choices because my family is Native (not Indian). My mother left her village at 13 to attend a Native Boarding school 1000 miles away. Otherwise, school only went up until the 8th grade. Her mother wanted her to stay in the village and take care of her 8 siblings and work in the cannery but her father said, no, she must leave and make something of herself. She became the first person from her village to go to college and become a teacher. She went back to the village to show the others that there was hope outside. Other choices can be made if you work hard. She gave hope to a proud but discouraged people. Just a few years before, the American Army had taken most of the Native Aleuts off of their islands to live in a dilapidated abandoned cannery in South East Alaska during WWII for “their own safety.” Many died. Many were not transported back to their villages and the villages died. The American government also disallowed teaching Native language and culture. I can count only a few fluent Aleut speakers. And with language, goes culture. And so a culture ends. All because a few white men, 6000 miles away, think that they know better than the locals. It is happening again. King Cove has bargained for a road, giving up much land for its purpose to transfer emergency patients. The Dept of the Interior only built half.

This book would be considered high interest and low reading level. I would recommend it to basketball lovers or angry youths who are book reluctant. There is one sentence that uses the “n” and “f” word in combinations that make both words fouler. There are several references to masturbation and boners. There are other adult combinations of phrases that were sexual in reference concerning his parents. However, this could be the book that shows high school boys that books are not only sweet, boring companions. It could be the, see, I am not alone in my shitty life kind of book. I would recommend this book to a high school boy who doesn’t read well, is angry, but has to do a book report on something.

Alexie, S., & Forney, E. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, New York: Little, Brown.