The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Disussion Module

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


Publishing Information: Little, Brown & Co. : New York, 2007
ISBN: 0316013684
Pages: 299 p.
Ages: 14 & Up

After being picked on at his school on the reservation, brilliant “Junior” Arnold Spirit decides to attend the all white school where he struggles with his identity and feelings about leaving the rez.

Book Talk:
Arnold is having trouble fitting in on the reservation. He is smart and being constantly picked on by others. He is also hilarious, insightful, and an amazing cartoon artist. His best friend Rowdy acts as his protector and they are very close until Junior decides to go to the white school outside of the reservation. He loses his best friend and part of his identity but also gains a new reputation. Who has Arnold become, and is it all worth it? Be prepared to laugh and cry at the same time.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Family Relations
Life on a Reservation
Native Americans
Pacific Northwest
Race Relations
Spokane Indians

Awards & Reviews:
Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, 2008
National Book Award for Young People's Literature, 2007
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008

Booklist, August 1, 2008, p.61
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October 1, 2007 (Starred Reveiw)
Horn Book, September 1, 2007 (Starred Review)
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2007 (Starred Review)
New York Times, November 11, 2007
Publishers Weekly, August 20, 2007, p. 70 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, September 1, 2007, p. 190 (Starred Review)
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, August 1, 2007

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Do you like Arnold?
  2. Do you agree with Arnold’s decision to change schools? Would you have the nerve to make those changes in your own life?
  3. hy was Rowdy so effected by Arnold’s decision to change schools? Was he being fair to Arnold?
  4. Do you consider Arnold’s family a loving, supportive family? Why or why not?
  5. How did the event at the grandmother’s funeral make you feel? What do you think about the man with the ceremonial dress?
  6. Would you have tried your hardest to score the winning basket if you were in Arnold’s situation?
  7. Do you think that Arnold is happier on the rez or off the rez? How can Arnold reconcile his two lives? Is he able to do this?
  8. What do you think will happen with Arnold in his future life?

Related Websites:
Author's Website:
Spokane Tribe:

Bearstone by Will Hobbs, 1989
The Brave by Robert Lipsyte, 1991
Prophecy Rock by Rob MacGregor, 1995
The Way by Joseph Bruchac, 2007
White Girl by Sylvia Olsen, 2005.
Who Will Tell My Brother by Marlene Carvell, 2002
Winners by Mary-Ellenn Lang Collura, 1986

Other Books by the Author:
(Note: These are all books written for adults.)

Novels: Reservation Blues, 1995
  Indian Killer, 1996
  Flight, 2007
Poetry: The Business of Fancydancing, 1991
  First Indian on the Moon, 1993
  I Would Steal Horses, 1993
  Old Shirts and New Skins, 1993
  Seven Mourning Songs for the Flute I have yet Learned to Play, 1993
  The Summer of Black Widows, 1996
  Water Flowing Home, 1996
  The Man who Loves Salmon, 1998
  One Stick Song, 2000
  The Toughest Indian in the World, 2000
  Dangerous Astronomy, 2005
Stories: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, 1993
  The Toughest Indian in the World, 2000
  Ten Little Indians, 2003
Screenplay: Smoke Signals, 1998

Works by Mr. Sherman are also included in many anthologies, all of which can be found on his website.

About the Author:
(Abbreviated from his official website which contains a more complete biography.)
Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Approximately 1,100 Spokane Tribal members live there.

Born hydrocephalic, which means with water on the brain, Alexie underwent a brain operation at the age of 6 months and was not expected to survive. When he did beat the odds, doctors predicted he would live with severe mental retardation. Though he showed no signs of this, he suffered severe side effects, such as seizures and uncontrollable bed-wetting, throughout his childhood. In spite of all he had to overcome, Alexie learned to read by age three, and devoured novels, such as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, by age five. All these things ostracized him from his peers, though, and he was often the brunt of other kids' jokes on the reservation.

As a teenager, after finding his mother's name written in a textbook assigned to him at the Wellpinit school, Alexie made a conscious decision to attend high school off the reservation in Reardan, WA, about 20 miles south of Wellpinit, where he knew he would get a better education. At Reardan High he was the only Indian, except for the school mascot. There he excelled academically and became a star player on the basketball team.

In 1985 Alexie graduated Reardan High and went on to attend Gonzaga University in Spokane on scholarship. After two years at Gonzaga, he transferred to Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, WA.

Alexie planned to be a doctor and enrolled in pre-med courses at WSU, but after fainting numerous times in human anatomy class realized he needed to change his career path. That change was fueled when he stumbled into a poetry workshop at WSU.  

Besides writing, Sherman Alexie also continues to pursue his work in stand-up comedy.

He lives in Seattle, WA, with his wife and two sons. © 2008 FallsApart Productions.