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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Individual Identity and Belonging to a Community

Junior’s struggle over the course of the book to articulate a coherent self is reflected in the title: at times, he feels he is not entirely Indian, but rather a “part-time Indian,” qualifying his identity marker with an adjective. His struggle is not limited to his time at Reardan; even before he leaves the reservation for the White school, he is an outsider in the Wellpinit community because of his birth defects and his intelligence; he cries often; he feels he doesn’t embody the “warrior” spirit that an Indian should. The confusion he feels over struggling to understand who he is and where he fits often leads to isolation, loneliness, and a feeling that there is no one quite like him in the world. The more he asserts his individuality, the more isolated from his community he feels. As Gordy points out, “life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of a community” (132). Junior’s own tribe rejects him because of his individual desires to leave the reservation and possibly become an artist, and part of his quest throughout the book is to reconcile that tension: how can he be a member of his tribe as well as pursue his individual goals? How can he define selfhood in a way that validates all different aspects of his identity?