The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
Arnold “Junior” Spirit is an awkward teenage cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. Trying to rise above the poverty-stricken, self-destructive world he grew up in, he transfers to an all-white high school outside the reservation.
True Diary has been banned for including profanity and subjects like racism and masturbation. I like Alexie’s response:
I certainly respect any parent’s right to determine what their child is reading. They don’t get to determine it for a whole school or community, but that said I was the only Democrat in my high school. I went to high school with a bunch of extremely Republican Christians (in other words, the kind of people who generally seek to ban my book) and let me tell you — those conservative Christian kids and I were exactly alike. I was publicly inappropriate, they were privately inappropriate. All this stuff that is controversial is stuff that kids are dealing with on a daily basis.
True Diary is semi-autobiographical; Alexie estimates that it is about 78% true. While it covers some sad and serious topics, it’s also funny and something young readers should relate to. Junior’s diary is interspersed with his hand-drawn cartoons, which give life to the story.
I didn’t love it, but I think True Diary is worth reading. It definitely was written for a young audience, though — best suited for teenagers.
You might like this book if you like…
- Native American culture
- Self-deprecating humor
- Coming of age books
- Stories with illustrations