Sherman Alexie's young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has been out and winning awards for several years now, but I just finally got around to reading it this week. On the one hand, I feel badly about that. I have loved Sherman Alexie's writing ever since reading The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (for my money, the best book title ever crafted) back in the early 1990s. I really should have gotten to this semi autobiographical book, his first for young adults, sooner. On the other hand, I'm glad I waited. It made several long waits I had this week go much more enjoyably, and it will be fresh in my head when the sequel, The Magic and Tragic Year of My Broken Thumb, soon comes out.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian tells the story of Arnold "Junior" Spirit, a Spokane Indian living on a reservation in Washington State. Arnold wants to be a cartoonist and escape the alcoholism, poverty, and hopelessness on the reservation. His first step is to leave the reservation high school and enroll at an all-white high school in a nearby farming town, joining the school's mascot as the only other Indian. Alexie, through Arnold's diary, broke my heart and made me laugh several times over in this fantastic book. Ellen Forney provides artwork in the form of Arnold's cartoons which add to the humor of the book. This is really a great one for teenagers.