by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a story about Junior, a young Native American living on the Spokane Indian reservation. Learning at a young age how limiting life on the rez is, how the dreams of everyone around him are systematically crushed, he transfers to high school in Rearden, the rich, white farm town located twenty-two miles off-rez. In leaving, almost everyone on the rez, including his best friend, thinks he’s a traitor. Junior tries to find acceptance in a racist, white world, while navigating the cruelties and tragedies on the reservation.
Part-Time Indian is very interesting, specifically because it has some major flaws, but it’s never really bad. I assume much of this has to do with the legitimacy Alexie lends to his story, that he was able to delve from his own experiences and be honest and open about it. So, even when it’s formulaic or when it’s far from subtle, it still retains a great deal of heart and Junior has a growing and vibrant personality throughout. The bigger issue I have with it––what really caused me to struggle with writing this review––is that it’s quite an insubstantial book. Yes, it at least brings up some big, important issues, and, yes, it’s an enjoyable read, but that’s the end of it. And not every book you read needs to change your life, but, given the praise showered all over Alexie’s, you would think that Part-Time Indian was one of those that does.
So, it’s short and I’d say at least a bit overrated, but it’s still a good read, so, you know, you could always do a lot worse than this one.