The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is not a book I would have picked up on my own, but once I started reading I couldn’t put it down till the very end.
Arnold Spirit, 14 year old Native American, has grown up on the Spokane reservation in Washington. Born with water on the brain and sporting thick and unfashionable glasses, he has learned to cope with the challenges of his life by allying himself with one of the toughest kids around and by drawing. “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.” Then one day the injustice around him becomes a bit too clear and he is inspired to transfer to a nearby all-white and better funded school, which of course presents new challenges. His friends from the reservation see his school change as a betrayal and the white kids in his new school don’t know what to do with him.
This book made me laugh out loud. Arthur is a keen observer of the world and survives his situation with a keen wit. At the same time his life and his awareness of the unfairness of it all are heart-breaking. Alexie has shared that the book is semi-autobiographical, and that knowledge does give the novel an extra element of hopefulness. This book challenged my perceptions of Native Americans and growing up, as well as provided inspiration to face the challenges in my own life.