The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Arnold “Junior” Spirit is many things– a Spokane Indian, a son, a tree climber, a punching bag, a brother, a cartoonist, a chronic masturbator, a basketball player, a hydro head, a mourner, a friend, a hitchhiker, and now a traitor to his nation. Arnold has had enough of the Reservation School and has abandoned his people for the all white Reardan High School in a neighboring town. Nothing will ever be the same. His best friend Rowdy has turned the full force of his fury toward Junior and the basketball court where he is breaking records left and right. His basement dwelling, romance-writing sister has fled to Montana and married an ugly nomadic poker playing Flathead Indian. Though he has never exactly been the king of popularity on the rez, Junior’s reception there now is positively chilly. Reardan, home of the Braves, is less than thrilled to welcome their very first Native American student and Arnold is thrown into a cultural whirlwind. None of the rules of the rez seem to apply and when Arnold defends himself as he would at home, he unwittingly gains the respect of his white peers. Slowly Arnold begins to find a place within the white world, but his role on the rez is as uncertain as ever. On the court, he makes a name for himself and off the court he makes a number of friends including super-nerd Gordy, jock Roger, and beautiful Penelope. When his poverty is revealed, Arnold thinks his days are numbered. His new friends embrace him, though. Following a series of personal tragedies, Arnold begins to unravel. With the help of his family and friends, he starts to pick up the pieces. Throughout, he reflects on his culture, the past, and his future. Eventually he makes peace with himself, his tribe and even Rowdy.
Arnold is a fun and loveable narrator who fills the pages of his story with hilarious illustrations and self-deprecating humor. He presents a troubling and realistic picture of poverty, race relations, and adolescence. Nothing is sugarcoated. The author is frank about the problems facing both Native Americans and teenagers, and Arnold represents a refreshingly real character with all of the flaws and awkwardness inherent with the age. Each character is fully realized and completely believable and together they create a heartwarming and engaging story about finding your own way and fighting for a better life.