Age Appropriate

Parental Reviews Of Non-Parental Books

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 +

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5 thoughts on “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

  1. Rebecca Trosper on said:

    I personally find this book very demeaning to those of us parents who try to instill good values and morals in our children. This book is the worst of any book ever writen. I was brought up in an alcoholic home with abuse and I lost all my siblings thru death before I was 12 years of age. My mother was married 5 times my father 3 times. I was left all alone most of the time after my sister died when I was 12 years of age. I was raped when I was thirteen years of age. I was brought up in poverty had to sleep in the cold and went without food. I am now raising my 16 year old son whom I adopted and he too came from a very bad enviornment. There are alot of us who are not of the indian race who have suffered great hardships yet we find a better way than to present ourselves or teach our kids to use such vulgar language racsim sexual perversaty. I love God and I hope that my son feels the same way. To say he was mad enough to kill God is not a very way to persent this to my child I absolutely hate the book beyond words. If this is how one can wxpress themnselves to better oneself than so be it but do not give it as a curriculum to our children who we are trying to teach better values.

    • Rebecca Trosper on said:

      This book is the worst book ever published. THE WORST.

    • Wow, Rebecca, please tell us how you really feel. The attitude/anger that comes through in your review is far scarier than anything presented in this book. You have every right to “hate” it, just like others have every right to love it. It’s not meant to be all sunshine and roses; it’s real and gritty and makes readers think. I guarantee your son has heard all that “vulgar language” (and then some) in the halls at his high school.

  2. Dusty Jansen on said:

    I read it. I’m Navajo. I grew up close to Gallup, NM as an off-reservation border town. I thought the subject matter was pretty straight forward and accurate. It was hard for me to read at times because the subject was very close to home. Now, there are hundreds of reservations across the United States with different living/social conditions, so we shouldn’t see this as the norm, but for me it was pretty close. It also mirrors a lot of what my friends from different parts of the Navajo reservation feel and friends I have where the book actually takes place.

    I think it would be a little more appropriate for high school freshman and up. Middle school is a little early to read this in my opinion.

  3. Margarita Ramirez on said:

    Definitely a high school book!!!!!!!
    Would not appreciate my 6th grader being exposed to the inappropriate language and experiences written on this book in middle school .
    There’s a time a place for everything.
    Public middle school is definitely not the place nor time for this type of exposure.

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