The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 288
Advertised Age Level: Ages 12 and up
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): 14/9th grade
Language: profanity, use of the “F” word
Sex: main character discusses masturbation and physical affects of attraction
Drug/Alcohol Use: alcohol use pervasive in characters surrounding main character, alcoholism a major theme
Violence: child abuse, bullying violence, murder – not graphically described
Social Issues: dysfunctional family, alcoholism, prejudice, poverty, bullying, oppression of Native Americans, death of family members, self-esteem, child abuse
Suggested Movie Grade: PG-13
Premise: Arthur Spirit “Junior” is a Spokane Indian who lives on a reservation where rampant poverty, pervasive alcoholism and constant violence make up the bleak future he faces. Born with several medical issues, Junior has always been the victim of open bullying and ostracism, and his one and only friend is an abused brute with anger management issues. Still, Junior harbors hope that things can get better. When one of his teachers suggests that he attend the local “white” school as a way off the reservation, Junior determines to make a better life for himself. He faces prejudice from the white children, hatred from his Indian tribe for the betrayal they feel he’s done, and continuing tragedy with the deaths of several key people in his life. Through it all, Junior maintains a sense of humor, using his skills as an artist and cartoonist to express his unique world view in the drawings scattered throughout the story.
Potential Points of Concern: Overall, this book is fairly dark and honest about the problems faced by Native Americans who are stuck in dead-end lives on reservations. As a narrator, Junior does not whitewash the problems he faces or try to sugar-coat the hardships in his life. His father is an alcoholic, the family is extremely poor and Junior is constantly the victim of bullies.
Junior is a 14-year old boy and openly discusses his sexuality, including self-gratification. Not graphic but open. His language is true to his age.
There are several family deaths in this story. Junior’s grandmother is killed by a drunk driver. His father’s best friend is shot in the face and dies. His sister is killed when she passes out after getting drunk and her home catches fire and she burns to death.
Junior faces open hostility and violence from the people on the reservation after he begins attending the white school, including anger and hatred from his best friend, Rowdy, who feels betrayed when Junior decides to switch schools.
The girl that Junior likes has bulimia.
Age Appropriateness: 13 +