The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is one of those books that some parents find offensive and insist be removed from school reading lists and libraries. One school (in Stockton, Missouri) banned it altogether for sexual content and inappropriate language. The same fate befell it in Richland, Washington. At least Newcastle, Wyoming left it in the library after removing it from the curriculum. A small victory for a remarkable book.
When Junior gets in trouble at school for throwing a book at one of his teachers, it seems inevitable that he is heading for a lifetime of trouble. Instead, the teacher does something surprising, urging Junior to leave the reservation school and continue his education off the reservation. But doing so is not without its complications. To leave the reservation is considered a betrayal of who and what he is but, with th support of his family, he takes a chance, leaving his only friend behind, daring to see what he might become.
This novel is one of those rare treasures that is so well written, filled with humor and pain and love and honesty, that it can touch any reader of any age. It is impossible not to feel a deep sympathy or even empathy for Junior. The illustrations by Ellen Forney are brilliantly matched to the text, occasionally rough and immature, at other times showing a deeper reflective quality altogether. The novel is a semi-autobiography, with the author drawing on his own experience and he does a powerful job of sharing every facet of his life—from the most brutal to the most loving—without aggrandizing or accusing anyone, most especially himself.
The final sentence literally gave me chills. I can’t remember the last time a book did that to me and I won’t soon forget this charming book.