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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

An Absolutely Awesome Read

24470203By Rohini Kumar, Journalism 1

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is young adult novel written by Sherman Alexie. It is the story of Junior, a teen who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. On the ‘rez,’ he is surrounded by alcoholism, abuse and poverty. Junior wants a better education for himself and decides to transfer to Reardan High School, in an all-white town. This heart-warming novel portrays Junior’s thoughts and hopes as he struggles to find his own identity as an Indian who wants to make something of his life in the intimidating real world.

What really makes this book outstanding is its balance between comedy and tragedy. The way Junior comments on things like racism and alcoholism is just hilarious, even though the topics are no joke. For example, in a serious moment involving death, Junior finds a way to make a joke out of how he has gone to 42 funerals by the age of 14.

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, something hard to find in novels. To enhance Junior’s quirky train of thought are some of ‘his’ cartoons, illustrated by Ellen Forney. These add another level to the book because we can also experience Junior’s emotions through his drawings.

The themes in this book are very real, making the reader think and be grateful for the life that they have. Junior faces bullying in his new school and his best friend has an abusive father. Everyone on the reservation is very poor and affected by alcohol. Junior sometimes has to hitchhike or walk the 22 miles to school because his family doesn’t have the money for gas. He makes profound and moving statements about his world, especially after the climax of the book.

Poverty is a real problem for many families in the United States and the author makes this known to the public through Junior’s heartfelt and sometimes angry thoughts. He is enraged by how people from his tribe rarely leave the reservation or amount to anything, proved by seeing his mother’s maiden name in a textbook at the rez school.

The book contains multiple curse words and Junior often talks about sexual topics that are inappropriate for younger readers. Many people find this offensive, but Junior is a teenager, so it’s not entirely out of place. The book should definitely be pursued by older teens, and is not a good choice for in-school reading and discussion.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a great read for those who enjoy both humorous and tear-jerking moments in their novels. It reveals the life of many Native-Americans in a touching, sometimes heart-breaking way.

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About the Contributor
Lanie Catuogno
Lanie Catuogno, Faculty Adviser
Ms. Cat here. I've taught journalism and advised the Westwood Student Press since 2013. Before that, I taught graphic design and advised yearbook staffs in Texas and California for 20 years. My undergrad degree is in Plan II Liberal Arts from the University of Texas at Austin, and I have a Master's of Education in Reading. I was an ASNE (American Society of News Editors) Reynolds High School Journalism Fellow in 2013. I earned my CJE (national certification as a journalism educator) in 2016. I was proud to be honored with the Edith Fox King award for journalism teachers in 2018. I love my job and it makes me especially happy when the newsroom is hopping and all the student journalists are busy following up on stories. If you are looking for my teacher website, click here.

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  • M

    Mrs. DayJan 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Great review of this book. The only thing I would add is this book is available to check out in the library in the Realistic section, under F ALE. If you would like to review some of our new books as they come in, let me know.