Junior is a young native American living on a reservation in Spokane Washington. Life on the reservation is rather bleak. Most of his community members suffer from depression, alcoholism, and just plain lack of motivation. There are very little opportunities, and those who choose to stay on the reservation have a bleak fate destined for them. When a teacher notices a glimmer of motivation and the excitement to learn present in Junior, he encourages him to enroll in a school that will further his education and broaden prospects for his future. The only problem is that it’s a white school, filled with students richer than him and smarter than him. Junior must learn how to navigate this school and blend in while still holding on to his Native American roots. While learning about issues of racial discrimination and coming to terms with his identity, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is very much a coming-of-age that sends necessary and difficult messages to youth readers.
The attribute of this book I heavily enjoyed was the race issues it touched on. With Junior going to an all white school being the only Native American, you would expect certain issues to arise, but Alexie challenges himself and includes other issues into the narrative and branch out to other racial issues in order to educate and inform readers. The aspect of this book I did not enjoy was it’s lack of depth. I had heard good things about this book and knew it might be an interesting read but I was not expecting the lack of depth. Yes, the book touches on social issues, but it presents it in such an open way there is lack of evidence of underlying messages. It is straight forward and tells rather than shows. That was the book’s main downfall and why it got points off it’s rating. What I enjoyed about the author is the way he presented the social issues in such a modern way. There are many classic books and books based in earlier 20th century that discuss racial issues, but we don’t see many books today with such a modern twist put on them. Alexie adaquatley conveys a teenager facing very real and serious problems. The way Junior went about his problems was a way a person is this 21st might. It challenged the way I think about similar issues that relate to my life and how I view them. I also enjoy some of the symbolism used in the novel.
I would recommend this book to youth ages 12-14. The content may be too shallow for those older and readers youngster than that may not truly appreciate The issues that Junior faces. If you would enjoy a semi-short book that touches on many modern social and racial issues then I would also recommend this book to you. Although it may have issues, I feel this book is ultimately worth the read.