Study Guide

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Chapter 1

By Sherman Alexie

Chapter 1

The Black Eye Of the Month Club

  • The narrator begins by telling us he has born with "water on the brain" (1.1). Actually, wait, not really, it's just that he was born with "too much cerebral spinal fluid" in his skull (1.2). That is, "brain grease" (1.2). Okay, really it's a condition called hydrocephalus.
  • The narrator then compares his brain to a "giant French fry" drowning in brain grease (1.4). That makes the whole thing seem "weird and funny" to him (1.5). We totally agree, though his family, he tells us, does not.
  • We learn about a risky surgery the narrator underwent at six months old and survived. He didn't even have brain damage as a result. In fact, he was totally fine.
  • Except... he did develop forty-two teeth. (That's ten more than what is usual for human beings.)
  • The narrator tells us that he went to the cheapskates at Indian Health Service to have ten of the teeth removed. They were all pulled in one day with very little Novocain. (Yowch!)
  • Indian Health Service also skimps on the eyeglasses. He only gets the "ugly, thick, black plastic ones" (1.16).
  • The narrator bombards us with even more self-deprecating details: he's skinny as can be. He has huge hands and feet. And his skull? Enormous. (Something tells us he's being a little hard on himself. What do you think?)
  • The narrator also had seizures on a regular basis which damaged his brain. He hasn't had one in seven years, but he's still susceptible to them.
  • More details of humiliation pile up: the narrator has a lisp and a stutter. According to him, this makes him "the biggest retard in the world" (1.36).
  • Oh yeah, and the narrator lives on a Native American reservation. Because of all of his wimpy-ness and weirdness (all the stuff he just told us about), he gets beat up at least once a month. He belongs to the "Black-Eye-of-the-Month-Club" (1.42).
  • The narrator includes a picture of how he sees himself (figure 1.1). He drew the picture himself.
  • He reveals that he is a budding artist: he draws pictures of all his friends and family. He likes to draw because, unlike words, everyone can understand pictures.
  • We get another picture of the narrator (fig 1.2) in which he's juggling a chainsaw, a bunny rabbit, and a book. He's screaming "Love me!" (Quite the comedian, this kid.)
  • The narrator tells us why he draws: he wants to talk to the world and he wants the world to pay attention to him. He also thinks that drawing or writing or whatever might be his only way off of the reservation.