Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What I Read: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

My only previous experience with Sherman Alexie was "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" and Smoke Signals. It was homework for my freshman year creative writing workshop. Our assignment was to read the story, watch the movie, and then write about the differences between the two. I don't remember much about either the story or the movie except that I wasn't particularly blown away by either of them.

This would have been two years before Absolutely True Diary... was published. So when people started talking about it, I thought, "Oh, yeah, Smoke Signals guy. Whatever."

But then people whose tastes I trusted read it and raved about it. And then, well, Standing Rock.* So when I saw Absolutely True Diary... in the teen section of my local library, I knew that I had to see if it was any good.

Image courtesy Kirk Benshoff and Little, Brown and Company

It was.

Whatever was distant, disconnected, and impersonal for me in "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" and Smoke Signals was immediate and personal for me in Absolutely True Diary... Maybe it has something to do with the universality of high school experience? Even if I've never been the only Native student in a white, wealthy high school, I've often felt like the only something in high school. Maybe it was Junior's distinctive voice. Maybe it was just my mood. Whatever.

The illustrations are a nice touch. It has something of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid feel, though not nearly so heavy on the "attempting to look like an actual diary" aspect. 

This one was also a quick read. I read half of it on my subway commute and the other half on campus. It won't take you long to blow through it but it's a really powerful and important book nonetheless. Now that I've read this, I'm wondering if I should go back and give Alexie's writing for adults another try. It's been a long time since 2005, after all.

*I'm well aware that Alexie is a member of the Spokane nation in Washington state, not the Dakota people who live in Standing Rock. But white people have been equally shitty to both groups, let's be real.


  1. I have heard really good things about this and grabbed a copy when it was a e-book deal. Glad it is good!

    1. Ohh, enjoy! I'm sure you'll blow through it in no time.

  2. This is one of the few YA books that I'll back 100%! I've been meaning to read more of Sherman Alexie's work, but just haven't gotten around to it. Maybe this year :P

    1. 2016 came for all our faves but it didn't come for the YA scourge ;_;