Junior is a 14-year-old cartoonist in the making, working his way through high school while living with his family on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Here, he draws all those around him — his mom and dad, sister, grandmother and his best friend in the world, Rowdy, in Sherman Alexie’s best-selling and often banned novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”. 

Life for Arnold “Junior” Spirit with his tribe has always been one he’s honored and strived to maintain, with rich culture and loyal friends and family. But with medical problems, issues at home and different hobbies from everyone else, he’s also always felt like an outcast. Opportunities at the reservation high school are few. The kids he goes to school with bully him relentlessly, call him names and hit him in the hallways. 

“I belong to the Black Eye of the Month Club,” Junior jokes to his readers at one point. 

He dreams of more. 

Determined to carve out a life for himself, Junior applies for — and is accepted — into an otherwise all-white high school 20 miles outside of his town. The high school is loathed by Junior’s friends on the reservation. Their mascot is even one of an Indian, degrading to Junior’s own nationality. 

For Junior, the decision to go to the school and pursue art, instead of drinking with the other Native American students on weekends and planning for an entire life on the reservation, goes against the grain of those he knows. They feel it threatens their very way of life as a tribe. Most of all, Rowdy is hurt, endangering their friendship and leaving Junior conflicted. 

Being the only Native American in an all-white population at the new school also proves to be hard, however. Junior has to find the bridge between the two communities he now belongs to. 

Heartbreaking, hilarious and amazingly written, with true to life characters and angles from all sides, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is based on the author’s real life experiences. It includes drawings that reflect Junior and his struggle through contemporary adolescence as he breaks from the life he feels destined to live.  

“Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community.”