The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I read this book for a class but it was such an eye opener and honestly I think it is a book that should be read in every high school classroom. I live not too far from an Indian reservation and my job puts me in contact with a lot of Native Americans that live on the reservation. I can tell a lot about them in the items they purchase and I’m not going to lie I have passed judgement on them. Reading this book made me reevaluate my opinions of them and their purchases. One of the big things that got me was the illustrations specifically the illustration where Junior compares himself to a white kid. It was his shoes that hit me the hardest because even though I grew up poor my parents always made sure to buy me good new shoes for the school year and I see Native Americans coming in and buying crappy plastic shoes that are not going to last six months let alone a whole year and it breaks my heart.

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Junior is an fifteen (?) year old kid who is entering his Freshman year of high school at an all white school off the reservation. He knows in his heart he needs to get off the reservation and the first step to doing that is going to a different high school. Of course anytime you leave your hometown for someplace new it is almost always seen as a betrayal and that is no less with the Native Americans who see Junior leaving the reservation as turning his back on his people and culture. Not only does he lose respect from his people but his best friend, Rowdy, as well. Junior or his given name Arnold has to make the first of extremely tough decisions in his life and that is continuing to go to Reardon, the all white high school. He not only faces the pitfalls that come with being a Freshman he is also perceived as different because of his ethnic background. People will always prejudge and Junior’s experience is no different.

This story is not only tough because of the Racism and Prejudice Junior experiences but the things that happen back on the Rez. At one point Junior says he has been to forty some funerals and it breaks my heart reading that. The kid is only fourteen or fifteen and he has been to forty some funerals. I can probably count the number of funerals I have been to on my fingers. There is a lot of blunt conversations in this book about sex and other sensitive subjects so I wouldn’t recommend it to Junior high kids even though that is technically the demographic. I would teach it to older high schoolers, not only because it is an easy read but it also teaches students a lot about life on a reservation.

-A

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