The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is absolutely, positively, undeniably one of the best books I’ve read for a good long while. If it were possible for a book to stop traffic, this would be the one to do it.
Arnold Spirit doesn’t want to end up like the rest of his community. He has big dreams for himself; he wants to leave the reservation and give life a good go. So he asks his parents if he can go to the rich, white school on the other side of the reservation border. When they say yes, Arnie’s life changes enormously.
Suddenly he doesn’t fit in anywhere. The kids on the reservation think he’s a traitor, and the kids at his new school think he’s an outsider. Arnie’s life is one complex day after another. But then things start to change. Penelope – the most popular girl in school – takes an interest in him, and suddenly he’s asked to try out for the basketball team. As it turns out, Arnie is a pretty good ball player, which does wonders for his popularity status. Then Arnie’s new team comes up against his old team for the show down of a lifetime. How will Arnie deal with the confrontation?
Although it does so in a highly entertaining and comedic way, this novel deals with some serious issues. On the reservation, Arnie is surrounded by family members and friends who all abuse alcohol and drugs. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian addresses the serious, life-changing consequences of such social problems. Although Arnie tends to trivialise these things through humor, the gravity and dangers associated with drug and alcohol abuse is certainly not lost within this story. I therefore insert my tear-jerker warning here. Tears from some readers are highly possible.
Ellen Forney’s illustrations add immeasurable worth to this story. They’re funny, descriptive, and provide an extra layer that words alone could never achieve. They’re definitely the icing on this already utterly hilarious cake.
Arnie’s voice is likeable and easily relatable. Even if you’re not a Native American Indian, even if you know nothing about Indian culture, I’m almost certain you will be able to find something of yourself in Arnie. If there were more kids like Arnie around, the world would be a better place.
You’ll laugh your hearts out; you’ll cry enough to fill a fish tank. Reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an emotional journey that everyone everywhere should experience. It’s a serious story told through a pair of not-so-serious eyes, making it easily digestible and readily accessible to all. This is definitely a book I can see myself coming back to over and over.