The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a bildungsroman, telling the story of Junior, a Native American teenager. During a conversation after school, one of Junior’s teachers inspires him to leave the high school on the reservation and begin going to high school in town. The novel follows Junior as he builds his identity, navigating his culture, his family, and relationships off the reservation.
I think this novel was written for twelve-to-fifteen-year-old boys. It’s formatted like a diary (hence the “absolutely true diary” part), complete with drawings and everything. It talks about masturbation. It talks about basketball. It talks about hot blond girls and fist fights. But somehow, I finished the book in a night and lied in bed and sobbed. I’m just past the teenager stage of my life. I’m not a boy. I’m not Native American. And still, there is something about Junior that I connect to.
When I was reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I was in a strange season of my life where it felt like a lot of my close relationships were falling through. I had hurt people I loved, and they had hurt me. And then all of a sudden Junior/Sherman Alexie, hits me with “You have to love somebody that much to also hate them that much too.” And then “If you care about something enough it’s going to make you cry.” And then I did cry.
As a human being in relationship with other human beings, I know what it’s like to not know how to mend misunderstandings or hurt. As a Latina/Hispanic who moved to Tennessee, I’ve heard members of my family tell me that I’m forgetting my culture. As someone who is still learning who they are, I understand what it’s like to be confused about where exactly I fit into the world. I, a twenty-one-year-old Latina, understood and sympathized with and stood beside a fourteen-year-old Native American boy. And I think that’s pretty magical. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the kind of book I want to read. It’s the kind of book I want to write—a literary masterpiece with a hero that we all see pieces of in ourselves.
Book Cover Source: http://fallsapart.com