The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
One minute, we're crying out of sadness; the next thing you know, we're crying out of laughter. Arnold's diary puts ours to shame. Excuse us while we go journal about how terrible that makes us feel.
|American Literature||All American Literature|
|Themes||Dreams, Hopes, and Plans|
Literature and Writing
Tradition and Customs
…and that skin cream had better have some impressive before and after pictures, or we’re
sticking with our normal brand. Books, on the other hand, are usually more
Want visual aids? Better bust out that imagination. Or make a diorama. …
But in Sherman Alexie’s <Uh-Lex-ee-s> The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian…
…budding illustrator Arnold…or Junior… draws a ton of pictures for show and tell.
Almost every character gets five minutes of fame, and Arnold even gives himself the cartoon
Why does Alexie include so many illustrations in his Absolutely True Diary?
Did he really love story time as a kid?
Or was he just trying to fill space? Maybe it has to do with Alexie’s audience.
Like Arnold, many of Absolutely True Diary’s readers are young adults who have a lot going
on in their lives.
Books have to compete with sports, final exams, family issues, and that cute sophomore from
With all this background noise, it’s hard to keep your attention focused on… Hey,
Let’s face it… the best book in the world can’t beat that meatball sub calling your
name from the fridge.
So what’s a novel gotta do to get some attention around here?
Well, as any graphic novel reader will tell you, comics are hard to resist.
Arnold’s illustrations are bite-sized treats, and there’s always one more right around
They’re like delicious little Easter eggs, leading you on to the next page.
Or maybe Alexie is trying to give the reader a break from his Kleenex-worthy plotlines.
Arnold’s life is no day at the beach.
His tribe boos him at basketball games…
…and his one-time best friend is now the self-appointed president of the Anti-Arnold
League. Just when he thinks it can’t get any worse,
Arnold loses three loved ones to alcoholism, and goes a little nuts trying to cope.
By this time, most of us would need some serious therapy, but when the going gets tough, the
tough get giggling.
Thanks to those illustrations.
Maybe laughter really is the best medicine. At least it keeps Arnold from going off the
deep end. Although, there could be another reason for
Arnold’s great at unflattering caricatures… we’d hate to be Coach or Mr. P. …
…but he also creates snapshots of important people in his life, which are a lot easier
to absorb than a three page write-up of a character’s vital stats.
Arnold says that his illustrations help him understand the world, but they also help us
get to know our part-time narrator.
Is he Arnold, the All-Native-American basketball star, or Junior, the traitorous Caucasian
How does a poor kid buy his shorty a short stack?
And what does a confused kid’s brain feel like after all of this role-playing?
We haven’t walked a mile in Arnold’s shoes, but by the end of the book we can almost smell
his sneakers. So what’s up with all the pictures in Arnold’s
Are they attention-grabbers? …
Is Alexie trying to dry your tears after all the sad parts?
Or do Arnold’s pictures show us the world through his glasses?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.
Can we be a little more explicit here about the fact that the drawings are what might
make us laugh? (Because they're caricatures?) Maybe a quick "Or maybe" type transition