I’ll be honest. I really didn’t want to read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Reluctantly, when there was nothing else on my reading list, I picked it up. Then I couldn’t put it down. The narrator, Arnold Spirit, says it like he means it. Being poor sucks. Listen to his voice:
Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.
He goes on to say how fried chicken is almost equal to Jesus in his house for the joy it brings. The thrust of the story is a boy trying to find himself and escape the poverty of living on the Indian reservation. When he goes to the white school, he has to pretend he’s rich. Mostly out of embarrassment for how he has to walk to school each and every day.
Yeah, so I pretended to have a little money. I pretended to be middle class. I pretended I belonged.
Nobody knew the truth.
Of course, you can’t lie forever. Lies have short shelf lives. Lies go bad. Lies rot and stink up the joint.
Add to this compelling narrative the awesome illustrations by Ellen Forney and you have a book that’s addicting. Arnold deals with his anger and fears through illustrating. And the pictures are hilarious. Check out these.
Arnold also has to cope with leaving his best friend Rowdy, who’s always there for him.
I was so depressed that I thought about crawling into a hole and disappearing forever.
By Rowdy talked me out of it.
“It’s not like anybody’s going to notice if you go away,” he said. “So you might as well gut it out.”
When Arnold leaves the rez for the white school, Rowdy sees this as a betrayal.
The book deals with Arnold finding his way with his new life and his old friendships. I highly recommend this to any teen or adult reader.