November 2013 Issue
October 25, 2013

Check it Out: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Source: NYSUT United

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian bookcover

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie

Recommended by: Amy Jo Southworth, librarian, Bay Shore Classroom Teachers Association

Suitable for: Grades 7 and up.

Why I chose it: Many American teens have little understanding of the lives of their Native American peers. Arnold Spirit, "Junior," an amateur artist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, decides to attend an all-white school with an Indian for a school mascot. The events that unfold show the influence of poverty, bullying and disabilities and illustrate the universality of the contemporary adolescent experience.

The book paints a realistic and honest depiction of Native American life.

What I like best: The book is exceptionally written and incorporates humor to help tackle difficult topics. Junior's drawings are interspersed throughout the text, adding authenticity and an additional medium for discussion.

How teachers can use this book: This coming-of-age story, written in the first-person and based on the author's own experiences, provides the opportunity to address the binaries of Native American life. Important themes such as embracing the traditional vs. the modern are also platforms for discussion. The book addresses Junior's struggle with a disability, as well as the subjects of alcoholism, puberty and tragic deaths. This book will easily engage reluctant readers.

About the author: Sherman Alexie is a poet, author and film-writer. He has also written and co-produced Smoke Signals, a Sundance trophy winning film; and War Dances, his collection of short stories and poems, which won the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Check him out at

"Check it Out" features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians and other educators. Have a recommendation? Please send suggestions, along with your name and local union, to