The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Watch Sherman Alexie reading an excerpt of this book!
By Sherman Alexie. 2007. About $12 or &6 (paperback). 230 pages.
(Follow-up suggested reading for Avanzado 2 students)
If you have enjoyed “Smoke Signals” (SS, 1998), you might feel something has opened up in your mind-heart. You might have tons of strange feelings, or questions. Even though SS is based on Alexie’s collection of short stories “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”, I suggest you read first this “Diary…” because it is easier and it will help you in the journey of trying to learn about this very different world.
This time Junior (aka Arnold) is the SS character Thomas, and Rowdy is Victor. The rez is now the Spokane /spokán/ Indian Reservation. We learn about life on the rez, and we also learn about leaving the rez. The diary contains cartoons supposedly drawn by the narrator in his diary.
It’s a great read for a cold winter weekend when you only feel like staying home and doing amazingly special things!
If you read it, please, don’t forget to drop by and comment! 🙂


10 responses to “The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

  1. Feel free to ask and comment
    Excerpt 1 This is how the book starts…

    “The Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club”

    I was born with water on the brain.
    Okay, so that’s not exactly true. I was actually born with too much cerebral spinal fluid inside my skull. But cerebral spinal fluid is just the doctors’ fancy way of saying brain grease. And brain grease works inside the lobes like car grease works inside an engine. It keeps things running smooth and fast. But weirdo me, I was born with too much grease inside my skull, and it got all thick and muddy and disgusting, and it only mucked up the works. My thinking and breathing and living engine slowed down and flooded.
    My brain was drowning in grease.
    But that makes the whole thing sound weirdo and funny, like my brain was a giant French fry, so it seems more serious and poetic and accurate to say, “I was born with water on the brain.”

  2. Excerpt 2

    “Why Chicken Means So Much to Me”

    Okay, so now you know that I’m a cartoonist. And I think I’m pretty good at it, too. But no matter how good I am, my cartoons will never take the place of food or money. I wish I could draw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a fist full of twenty dollar bills, and perform some magic trick and make it real. But I can’t do that. Nobody can do that, not even the hungriest magician in the world.
    I wish I were magical, but I am really just a poor-ass reservation kid living with his poor-ass family on the poor-ass Spokane Indian Reservation.
    Do you know the worst thing about being poor?

  3. Excerpt 3

    “My Sister Sends Me an E-mail”

    Dear Junior:
    I love it here in Montana. It’s beautiful. Yesterday, I rode a horse for the first time. Indians still ride horses in Montana. I’m still looking for a job. I’ve sent applications to all the restaurants on the reservation. Yep, the Flathead Rez has about twenty restaurants. It’s weird. They have six or seven towns, too. Can you believe that? That’s a lot of towns for one rez! And you know what’s really weird? Some of the towns on the rez are filled with white people. I don’t know how that happened. But the people who live in those white towns don’t always like Indians much. One of those towns, called Polson, tried to secede (that means quit, I looked it up) from the rez. Really. It was like the Civil War. Even though the town is in the middle of the rez, the white folks in that town decided they didn’t want to be a part of the rez. Crazy. But most of the people here are nice. The whites and Indians. And you know the best part? There’s this really great hotel where hubby and I had our honeymoon. It’s on Flathead Lake and we had a suite, a hotel room with its own separate bedroom! And there was a phone in the bathroom! Really! I could have called you from the bathroom. But that’s not even the most crazy part. We decide to order room service, to have the food delivered to our room, and guess what they had on the menu? Indian fry bread! Yep. For five dollars, you could get fry bread. Crazy! So I ordered up two pieces. I didn’t think it would be any good, especially not as good as grandma’s. But let me tell you. It was great. Almost as good as grandma’s. And they had the fry bread on this fancy plate and so I ate with this fancy fork and knife. And I just kept imagining there was some Flathead Indian grandma in the kitchen, just making fry bread for all the room-service people. It was a dream come true! I love my life! I love my husband! I love Montana!
    I love you!
    Your sis, Mary

  4. I haven´t read The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian yet but I´m working on it and I think this book is totally amazing, we all can learn something about the world with it, and also it is ery funny!!you will enjoy a lot!

  5. Thanks a lot for your comment, Xndris!

    It’s encouraging. 🙂

    People are saying they like the book, many have already finished it (in less than a month), but nobody’s posting…

    Quoting Ross, in episode 1, season 1, of Friends: The word you’re looking for is “anyway”


    I love Sherman Alexie’s work! And I agree with you in that the book is amazing and funny! I hope you can all think of interesting ways in which to exploit this reading. The first lesson in December will be devoted to Small groups brainstorming in this! (Plus reading fav excerpts!)


  6. Andres Cervantes


    The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexis is a book filled with many genuine conflicts that are often seen throughout our society. The books main character Arnold is a Spokane Indian who lives in an Indian reservation. During his first day of school he notices that his school, Wellpinit High does not offer a good education due to having unqualified teachers and having old books. Infuriated and distressed Arnolds chucks a book at his teacher Mr. P therefore getting him suspended from school. When Arnold returns to school Mr. P informs him on how racially segregated the school is in the Indian reservation; and in order for him to succeed and earn a good education he must leave the reservation immediately. His advice to leave Wellpinit High in order earn a better education was a commitment for Arnold. The commitment led him to leave the Indian reservation and begin attending an all white school in Reardan. Throughout our society many of the people that live within poverty usually have trouble getting out of poverty. Many times, families in poverty also face many types of problems such as physical abuse and alcohol abuse. Abuse is problematic for families with children because it can have an impact on the children’s behavior and self-esteem.
    “All these kids have given up,” said Mr. P “All your friends. All the bullies. And their mothers and fathers have given up, too. And their grandparents gave up and their grandparents before them. And me and every other teacher here. We’re all defeated.” (42). Mr. P’s discussion to Arnold claims that the reservation is meant to keep their self esteem down, make them unsuccessful and keep them from leaving the reservation which is why he wants Arnolds to leave. In online article by Brian Tracy states that People tend to stay in poverty because “It never occur to them, they too can become rich this is because many people grow up in a family where he or she never met anyone who is wealthy. They go to school, work, market and associate with poor people. And if this happens to you throughout your formative age to adult, it occurs to you, that you too can also be wealthy.” This may be true within our society; but I would think that people in poverty dislike living in poverty so much that it urges them to make better decisions like getting better jobs for a better salary or in Arnold’s case, leave the reservation and his best friend Rowdy to earn a better education. Another statement by Tracy exemplifies that the “Decision is essential for a successful life. Every accomplishment, great or small starts with a decision. Nothing great was ever done without the act of decision. The primary reason for under achievement and failure is that they don’t decide to be successful.” This may be true although many times in society children’s self-esteem can affect a child’s future even if they are attempting to do good economically.
    Appropriate life decisions and preparation is the key to a successful life, although many times in our society not everyone has time to dedicate their time to studying in school when they are stuck in an abusive family. Some individuals within our society come from a family of many consistent inappropriate parenting actions such as physical abuse and alcohol abuse. Any type of abuse is inappropriate behavior in front of children and is a problem within our society. The behavior that happens within abusive homes can have a negative effect on those who are abused. Abusing children may also inflect their self-esteem which effects their social life or career and educational opportunities in many different ways like not having friends.
    Within the reservation Arnold was often bullied and picked on at school. He wasn’t much of a popular kid and he also didn’t have any friends besides Rowdy. Rowdy’s characteristic is the opposite from Arnolds, he often bullies kids and picks fights with other individuals regardless how big or old they are; he is not afraid to walk around the reservation with a black eye and a split lip, “It was a war print, It just makes me look tougher”, Rowdy says (16). In the book Arnolds best friend Rowdy comes from a family background where physical abuse and alcohol abuse often takes place and the book states that Rowdy’s often physically abuses him and his mom. Many times in an abusive family children inherit that abusive behavior.
    It is important to realize these conflicts that are taking place within families because if an individual grows up within an abusive family, that child later inherits and also may abuse his or her own children as well. Building up a child’s self-esteem is bad for them in the long run because it can affect their future from becoming a good successful member of society.

    Work Cited
    Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary f a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
    Tumwater, Wash.]: Washington State Library, 2008. Print.

    Olabode Samuel, Reasons Why People Don’t Become Rich. Ezine Articles. February 23,

    Brain Tracy, 5 Strong Reason Why Many People Remain Poor. Article Base.
    February 23, 2011,

  7. Sorry for taking so long to Approve your comment. It had skipped our eye! Are you there, anyway?

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