The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

26 Sep

Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) is my favorite literary character and he lives in the world of my favorite book, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. In this semi-autobiographical tale, Alexie tells the story of 14 year-old Junior, a Spokane Indian growing up on a reservation in Washington State. After being suspended from school for throwing a book at a teacher, the teacher convinces him to leave the rez (“to take [his] hope and go somewhere where other people have hope.” p. 43). Junior enrolls in Reardan, a highly regarded high school 22 miles from the rez, where the student body is entirely white and the mascot is an Indian. The story of Junior’s life during his first year off rez at Reardan is told from Junior’s perspective via his cartoon-enhanced diary entries (artwork by Ellen Forney). Junior writes about a wide range of topics from racism, poverty, alcoholism, loss, family, bullying, not fitting in, girls, books, basketball, school, tradition, etc with thought-provoking language that at times made me laugh and at time made me cry (and occasionally did both).

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is filled with inspiring quote-worthy commentary; an almost overwhelming number of words from this book have made it into my goodreads favorite quotes. One of my favorite moments in the story was recently used as an example for why the book should be banned. This favorite moment of mine features a conversation between Gordy and Junior about the wonder of books and learning. As Gordy says, “‘The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.” (p.97). He thinks that we should approach each book and life itself open to the idea that at any time we could get a metaphorical boner (can you guess which part of this those who ban/challenge the book have a problem with?).

In a recent banning of the book in Stockton, MO, one school board member claimed that the book contained too much profanity to be of value. A high school student who attended a forum on the book’s banning said “This book in a nutshell is my hope….It’s not about giving up. It’s about not letting people tell you you’re not worth it.” (News-Leader.com) How can a book of no value give a young person hope? How can a book of no value make me think and learn and feel?


I highly suggest this book to EVERYONE, even those who think writing about masturbation (enthusiastically yet ungraphically) warrants a book valueless. Junior’s friend Gordy believes that in order to really know a book, you have to read it three times. I wonder how many times those supporting the ban of the book read it?

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2007)

Don’t forget to enter your reviews of frequently banned or challenged books in our Banned Books Month giveaway!

9 Responses to “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”

  1. Erin 26. Sep, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    This is one of my favorite audiobooks. It’s read by Sherman Alexie and is absolutely fantastic. I should probably read the actual book too. It’s that good.

    I just can’t believe that someone would object to a book like this, especially with all the profanity, sex, etc. out there on TV, in movies, in video games, in music. Why is it not ok in books? Of all those mediums, I think books have the greatest power to positively affect someone (like the teen you quoted). Do people think kids don’t already know these things?

    I’m with you — everyone should read this book.

    • em 28. Sep, 2010 at 12:01 am #

      I should try listening next time I “read” it (I love audiobooks and Sherman Alexie as a reader!). You should definitely check out the print version someday if only for the Ellen Forney illustrations.

  2. Candace 07. Oct, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    I have been seeing this one around more with the banned books week and everyone reading and reviewing more of them and I’m definitely wanting to go out and buy it RIGHT NOW! I grew up near an Indian Reservation in SD and had friends from the reservation that were able to stay with other family and attend school off the res. They didn’t talk about their lives on the reservation much, but I definitely got a good idea of how it was. I think this is a book I need to try to find a bunch of copies of and send them to my contact on the reservation to give out to students. Thanks for sharing this book with us!

    I’m visiting from Saturday Situation linky again!

  3. Kailia Sage 07. Oct, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Everyone is reading this book! I need to get to it!

  4. Katy 24. Sep, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    i think that this book should be banned. Even if it is someones favorite book it shouldn’t be allowed for kids under 15 at least.

    there is too much swearing and innapropriate parts. i don’t recommened anyone read this. but if you feel as though you want to, read this first.

    • em 24. Sep, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

      I’m sorry that you feel that the book is without value. It’s not clear from your comment in what contexts you think the book should be banned. Do you mean just in elementary or middle schools? Or do you think it needs to be banned in high schools as well (seeing as some high schoolers are 13 or 14, below your 15 years minimum). Do you think it should be banned from public libraries as well? Book stores too? I think this book tells a story that is important on many levels and on top of that it is an impressive work of literature. While I would not include this book in an elementary library, I do think that it is appropriate for some middle school aged readers and most (if not all) high schoolers. I would hate to see young readers’ access to this book limited due to adults feeling uncomfortable about some curse words and “inappropriate parts” (I’m not sure what these inappropriate parts are that you speak of).

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Twisted | Love YA Lit - 29. Sep, 2010

    [...] the work is intellectually challenging. This same reasoning was used recently in the banning of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in Stockton, MO. I have yet to read the other books removed from the classroom in this Kentucky [...]

  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | One More Page - 18. Nov, 2010

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  3. Love & Sex in YA Lit: THE GOOD | Em & Lo: Sex. Love. And Everything in Between. - 02. Dec, 2010

    [...] The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007) – Arnold Spirit, a.k.a. Junior, masturbates without apology.  If you judge him for writing about it, well, it’s his diary, so why are you reading it anyway (aside from the fact that it is one of the best YA books ever written)? As he declares, “EVERYBODY does it and EVERYBODY likes it,” so lighten up!  Also, books give him both metaphorical and literal boners, which is a pretty solid (no pun intended) sales pitch for reading. This book is incredibly sex positive without being at all graphic.  Check out our full review of Part-Time Indian on LoveYALit. [...]

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