81 pages 2 hours read

Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2007

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Character Analysis

Arnold “Junior” Spirit Jr.

The narrator and fictional “author” of The Absolutely True Diary, Junior is a highly intelligent 14-year-old Spokane Indian boy who loves basketball, drawing cartoons, and his best friend, Rowdy. Born with hydrocephaly and not expected to live past infancy, Junior’s life seems, in some ways, a stroke of luck. On the Indian reservation where he grows up, his stutter, his birth defects, and intelligence mark him from birth as “other,” making him an outsider even among his own tribe. As a result, he’s frequently the victim of bullying. Junior has learned to cope with circumstances by developing a strong sense of humor, on frequent display in his diary entries. Everything in the book (with the exception of Mary’s letters) is mediated through Junior’s lens, so while the title claims to be “the absolutely true diary,” everything inside the diary represents Junior’s subjective experience.

Much of The Absolutely True Diary focuses on Junior’s internal conflict and his struggle to feel at home in his two communities, Reardan and Wellpinit. At times, Junior feels too Indian for Reardan, but his own tribe regards him as a traitor, even White, for leaving the reservation for school. He himself is the “Part-Time” Indian of the title, a reference to how difficult it is for him to feel valid and whole in his environments.