The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is written by Native American writer Sherman Alexie. We have penned down the Summary of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The book was published in 2007 and the genre is young adult fiction. This book of Native American literature is about the tough life of an Indian boy named Junior who is narrating his story.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian Summary:
The main characters of the novel are Arnold Spirit (Junior), Junior’s father, Junior’s mother, his teacher Mr.P and his best friend Rowdy.
The narrator was born with water on the brain and he discusses his disease at the beginning of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The narrator’s name is Junior and he has had many physical problems since childhood. While getting treatment for his teeth, he describes the unfair treatment of White dentists. The dentist believes in the stereotyped and racist notion that Indians have a higher pain threshold, so he only gives him half the medicine to numb his mouth. According to junior, this unfairness comes under the category of scientific racism (p.7).
Apart from his many deformities and diseases, he also had a stutter and lisp and because of that everyone around him calls him a retard. Junior adopts the hobby of drawing and he draws cartoons of his family and his best friend and everyone that live around him. For him, people can understand drawings better than words. He wants to talk to the world and through his drawing, he thinks he can do it better. Drawings are his escape route from every problem.
He thinks” the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and his cartoons are tiny little lifeboats”The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (p.10)
Junior says that he can draw everything and he is pretty good at it but he wishes that his drawing would end his poverty. He wishes he could draw food and it becomes real.
He explains poverty as:
Poverty= empty refrigerator+ empty stomachThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
He further explains hunger is not the only thing that is worse about poverty, it is not to save your loved ones from disease and death. He sometimes hates his parents for being poor but he also knows that poverty was not their dream.
Junior tells us about his best friend Rowdy whose father is an alcoholic and beat him often. One notable problem on the Indian Reservation is abuse, which is often connected to the most widespread problem of alcoholism. Junior often alludes to these issues in his diary, especially when describing Rowdy’s father. Rather than viewing himself as a victim, Rowdy shrugs off the tragedy of his situation with cultural humour. He describes his bloody face as
“this is war paint and it just makes him look tougher”The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (p.17)
While taking revenge from the Andruss brothers who beat Junior, Rowdy shaved off their eyebrows and cut off their braids and this is the worst thing you can do to an Indian guy. Junior states that Rowdy has protected him since birth.
While talking about the education system of Indians, Junior says that he is reading from his mother’s book which is at least 30 years old. He feels sad about the education system for Indians that could not get better with time and it is still the same. (p.29).
After hitting his teacher Mr P, Junior is expelled from school. However, they both solve their issues and talk about their problems. The old teacher takes his heart out that when he started teaching Indians, they used to beat them to kill the Indians that is inside them. Their mission was to kill Indians. They wanted them to give up their traditions, songs, stories, language and dancing. They wanted to kill Indian culture. (p.33)
Junior calls her sister Mary Run Away who is crazy and random. Mr P praises her and talks about how passionate she is about reading and writing. Junior is surprised to hear about his sister’s talent.
Junior asks his parents to change his school and they mention a different school name. They mention Hunters and Springdale (schools) where poor Indians and Poorer White kids get an education and it is the only place where White kids are poorer than Indians. However, junior wants to go to Reardan a rich white farm town.
Junior parents warn him about the other Indian’s anger because he is leaving the rez (the residence of Indians). The first of them was Rowdy, his best friend. Junior was not expecting hate from him. However, Rowdy’s reaction shocked him. They had a huge argument, were beaten and in the end part ways.
After joining the new school, Junior meets Penelope and we come to know that his full name is Arnold Spirit Jr. Indians call him Junior and he feels like he has two different people inside him. He feels that Junior is living on the Northside of the Spokane River and Arnold is living on the South.
Junior often cries and he mentions whenever something happens, he cries. Junior feels he is weak so everyone picks on him and beats him. However Junior can be physically weaker than other boys but he is emotionally mature than Rowdy (his best friend) and other bullies. (p.68).
Junior fell in love with a girl named Panelope (a White girl). On Halloween, he dresses up as a homeless boy because he does not have any other option. He says to Panelope that he is representing homeless Native Americans and she gets impressed by his idea.
He realizes at school that he is more intelligent than many white kids. Once he put forth a point during a lecture. However, the teacher does not like the idea of being interrupted by an Indian boy. The teacher dismisses his valid point and taunts his ethnicity. He uses his power to belittle Junior. He stresses the point that Junior belongs to the reserve and there is no way he can be intelligent or wiser than him (the White teacher).
Junior tells his best friend Rowdy that he is in love with a white girl. In his response to Junior, he says that Indian men and other men of colour see White women as the epitome of beauty. They consider light skin colour superior to dark complexion and media often justifies this. (p.101).
Junior’s family goes through some sorrowful events and he thinks that is why his family has to go through these sorrows. While reading a play, he mentions the writer’s words that “What greater grief than the loss of one’s native land?” (p.145). He mentions that Indians have lost everything including their native land, languages, songs and dance and they only know how to lose and be lost.
With the progress in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior realizes the problems of the Indians and also the talent of his parents. He comes to know that it is just the circumstances that make their life miserable but they always dream about a good life. At the end of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior reconciles with his best friend Rowdy and they play a match without counting the score.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian questions that People want to Know About:
Q: What is the genre of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie?
Answer: The genre of the book is Young Adult Fiction.
Q: When was the book written?
Answer: The book was written on September 12, 2007.
Q: Is the book an autobiography of Sherman Alexie?
Answer: By looking at the content of the book, many people think that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is an autobiography of Sherman Alexie. It was supposed to be a memoir. However, an editor gave a suggestion to Alexie make a mark in young adult fiction by announcing it as a novel.
Q: Why the novel was banned in some places?
Answer: The book was banned in some schools in 2011 and the objection was due to its adult and sexual content which they thought were inappropriate for students. The novel was also challenged due to the same reasons of violence, inappropriate language and sexual acts.
You should definitely read this book to know about Native American culture, the problems and the psychological issues that Native American people used to face especially the young people.
Note: The book art is by Ellen Forney is also used in the article. She is an American cartoonist.
Read More about Native American Literature: