The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This is a young adult novel that I read for the banned books themed book club that I attend. It is set in the Spokane Indian reservation in Washington, and it has apparently been banned from many schools in surrounding areas. It deals with such heavy and controversial subjects as poverty, alcoholism, bullying, race, friendship, love, family, and basketball. Presumably there are a lot of parents in the Pacific Northwest who would prefer that their children did not read about these issues, which seems a shame to me, since many children must be exposed to many of those things at some point, except only the unlucky few have to deal with poverty, alcoholism and high school sports.

Out protagonist, Junior, has some physical problems, but he is very intelligent and makes the difficult decision to go to school off his reservation. As a non-American, this book was very educational to me about rural American life, and Indian reservation life. I learned a lot and it made me think a lot. I am thirty-seven years old. There was some very upsetting stuff in this book, mostly around alcoholism, family, and ultimately, race. I would expect that only a thoughtful and maturn young adult would enjoy this, but that is no reason to have it banned from schools.

Junior is an incredibly strong and likeable kid. I think the book is semi-autobiographical, so not “absolutely true” and the Indian in question is not, in my opinion, at all “part-time.” To my mind he is certainly a full-time Indian and his race is in his thoughts all the time. To me, that is a big theme of the book. There are lots of very sad parts in this book, but it is ultimately uplifting, at least for our protagonist, and I think it would be very valuable for the average young adult American to read to help them to empathise with the Indians who are not as fortunate or as ballsy as Junior.

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