The Absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian
by Sherman Alexie









The Absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

Summary
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Characters
NameArnold Jr. Spirit
GenderMale
Age14
OccupationStudent
Cartoonist
AttributesHypochondriac
Wants desperately to escape the reservation; transfers to a public school 22 miles from home in a rich town; everyone on the rez see him as a traitor; at school most teachers and students project sterotypes onto him; alcoholism and self-destructive behaviors lead to the deaths of close relatives; Junior must separate from his tribe to preserve his identity


Genre
Young adult fiction
    --
Coming of age
    --
Black humor
    --

Topics
Native Americans
Spokane Indians
Cultural identity
Cultural assimilation
Cultural differences
Cultural conflict
Reservation life
School
Teachers
Students
Alcoholism
Alienation

Setting
Washington (State) -- West (U.S.)
-- United States





In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.





Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October of 1966. His mother was Spokane Indian and his father was Coeur d'Alene Indian. Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He was born hydrocephalic, which means with water on the brain, and received an operation at the age of 6 months. He was not expected to survive, but did, even though doctors predicted he would live with severe mental retardation. Surprisingly, though he suffered from severe side effects, he exhibited no symptoms of retardation and went on to learn to read by age three, and read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath by age five. Alexie decided to attend high school off the reservation, in Reardan, Washington, where he knew he would get a better education. He was the only Indian at the school, and excelled academically as well as in sports, becoming a star player on the basketball team. After high school, Alexie attended Gonzaga University in Spokane on scholarship in 1985. After two years at Gonzaga, he transferred to Washington State University. Alexie had dreams of being a doctor but discovered he needed a different career path after fainting three times in anatomy class. Taking a poetry workshop at WSU, Alexie found he excelled at writing and, encouraged by poetry teacher Alex Kuo, realized he'd found his new career. After graduating in American Studies from WSU, Alexie received the Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship in 1991 and the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship in 1992. A year after he left WSU, two of his poetry collections, The Business of Fancydancing and I Would Steal Horses, were published. His first collection of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, was published by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1993. For this collection he received a PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction, and was awarded a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. Alexie was then named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists and won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award and the Murray Morgan Prize for his first novel, Reservation Blues, published in 1995. His second novel, Indian Killer, published in 1996, was named one of People's Best of Pages and a New York Times Notable Book. Alexie had become friends with musician Jim Boyd, a Colville Indian, and the two decided to collaborate on the album Reservation Blues, which contains the songs from the book of the same name. In 1996 Boyd and Alexie opened for the Indigo Girls at a concert to benefit the Honor the Earth Campaign. In 1997, Alexie embarked on another collaboration with Chris Eyre, a Cheyenne/Arapaho Indian. They agreed to collaborate on a film project inspired by Alexie's work, This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona, from the short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Smoke Signals debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1998, winning two awards: the Audience Award and the Filmmakers Trophy. In 1999 the film received a Christopher Award, presented to the creators of artistic works "which affirm the highest values of the human spirit." Alexie was also nominated for the Independent Feature Project/West 1999 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. Alexie competed in his first World Heavyweight Poetry Bout competition in June 1998, organized by the World Poetry Bout Association (WPBA) in Taos, New Mexico. He won, and then went on to win the title again over the next three years, becoming the first and only poet to hold the title for four consecutive years. Alexie also made his stand-up comedy debut at the Foolproof Northwest Comedy Festival in Seattle, WA, in April 1999, Also in 1998, Alexie participated with seven others in the PBS Lehrer News Hour, Dialogue on Race with President Clinton. Alexie has also been featured on Politically Incorrect , 60 Minutes II, and NOW with Bill Moyers. In February 2003, Alexie participated in the Museum of Tolerance project, "Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves," an exhibit showcasing the diversity within the personal histories of several noted Americans. He was the guest editor for the Winter 2000-01 issue of Ploughshares, a prestigious literary journal. He was a 1999 O. Henry Award Prize juror, was one of the judges for the 2000 inagural PEN/Amazon.com Short Story Award, and a juror for both the Poetry Society of America's 2001 Shelley Memorial Award and the Poets and Writers "Writers Exchange 2001" Contest. He currently serves as a mentor in the PEN Emerging Writers program. Alexie was also a member of the 2000 and 2001 Independent Spirit Awards Nominating Committees, and has seved as a creative advisor to the Sundance Institute Writers Fellowship Program and the Independent Feature Films West Screenwriters Lab. In October 2003 he received Washington State University's highest honor for alumni, the Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award. Alexie's work was selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2004,and his short story "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" was selected by juror Ann Patchett as her favorite story for the The O. Henry Prize Stories 2005. Alexie has published 16 books including his collection of short stories, Ten Little Indians. (Bowker Author Biography)





Gr 8 Up-Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, is an unlikely hero in this semiautobiographical novel (Little, Brown, 2007) by Alexie Sherman. He was born with water on the brain, lives in abject poverty on an Indian reservation near Spokane, and is surrounded by the hopelessness of alcoholism. When a caring teacher recognizes that the boy still has hope, he insists that Junior leave the reservation school. Junior defies his tribe and enrolls in an all-white school 22 miles from the reservation. At Rearden he becomes known as Arnold, but acceptance comes very slowly. At first his classmates are wary and many are racist. When the football captain delivers a jaw-dropping racial slur, Arnold slugs him and is baffled by the fear he sees in the other boys' eyes. He realizes that the rules are different off the rez and he doesn't know the new rules. Through tenacity and humor, Arnold eventually finds a way to balance his part-time life on the reservation with his part-time life at school. The narration by the author is delivered in what Arnold might describe as the sing-song cadence of Indian speech. Poetic, deeply funny, politically incorrect, slightly naughty, and heart-wrenching, the story makes a flawless transition from print to audio. Sherman provides a glimpse into an unfamiliar culture and maintains a balance between the bleak reality of reservation life and the stunning beauty of a loving family and friendship. An essential purchase for all libraries serving older teens.-Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School. Broken Arrow, OK (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.





Screenwriter, novelist and poet, Alexie bounds into YA with what might be a Native American equivalent of Angela's Ashes, a coming-of-age story so well observed that its very rootedness in one specific culture is also what lends it universality, and so emotionally honest that the humor almost always proves painful. Presented as the diary of hydrocephalic 14-year-old cartoonist and Spokane Indian Arnold Spirit Jr., the novel revolves around Junior's desperate hope of escaping the reservation. As he says of his drawings, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He transfers to a public school 22 miles away in a rich farm town where the only other Indian is the team mascot. Although his parents support his decision, everyone else on the rez sees him as a traitor, an apple ("red on the outside and white on the inside"), while at school most teachers and students project stereotypes onto him: "I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other." Readers begin to understand Junior's determination as, over the course of the school year, alcoholism and self-destructive behaviors lead to the deaths of close relatives. Unlike protagonists in many YA novels who reclaim or retain ethnic ties in order to find their true selves, Junior must separate from his tribe in order to preserve his identity. Jazzy syntax and Forney's witty cartoons examining Indian versus White attire and behavior transmute despair into dark humor; Alexie's no-holds-barred jokes have the effect of throwing the seriousness of his themes into high relief. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved





Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork with a decent jumpshot, spends his time lamenting life on the poor-ass Spokane Indian reservation, drawing cartoons (which accompany, and often provide more insight than, the narrative), and, along with his aptly named pal Rowdy, laughing those laughs over anything and nothing that affix best friends so intricately together. When a teacher pleads with Arnold to want more, to escape the hopelessness of the rez, Arnold switches to a rich white school and immediately becomes as much an outcast in his own community as he is a curiosity in his new one. He weathers the typical teenage indignations and triumphs like a champ but soon faces far more trying ordeals as his home life begins to crumble and decay amidst the suffocating mire of alcoholism on the reservation. Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt.  A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure. Younger teens looking for the strength to lift themselves out of rough situations would do well to start here.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2007 Booklist






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