Sometimes there are just stories that work for you on a fundamental level that no matter if it had flaws, it still hit you in a place that can’t be easily quantified. That’s exactly what happened with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
I am not an Indian. I am not a teenage boy. I was never bullied or championed. It wasn’t like I truly related to the exact experience that the main character, Arnold. However, I did feel like we were cut from the same cloth. So when certain things happened in his life, I was able to transpose and relate to the situations that occurred in my own life. So while, we weren’t the same, I felt like I understood.
There are some really interesting themes that arise in the book, particularly in relation to being a part of a community. Arnold is Indian. He is born that way and it can never change whether he wants it to or not. Yet, despite being a part of that community he is an outcast. On the other hand when he does go to the white school, he is seen as an Indian regardless. That creates these sense of not really belonging anywhere that I could relate to very deeply. That uncertainty and desire to just be while constantly being grouped or chided at not behaving like a sheep within the rest of the community. It examined what it meant to become ones own person through that feeling of never really belonging anywhere.
While the tone in this book is cheery without being chipper, it got heavy without feeling too dark. It managed to walk a line that was probably really difficult especially as certain topics were dealt with. It’s hard to feel like death is all around you. It’s hard to feel like you want to succeed, but that it will leave behind those you love. More importantly it’s hard to deal with just being a teenager and being cognizant of how crappy the world can be an not be in a position to do anything but barely help yourself.
Arnold had to deal with a lot in this novel and he took it in stride. I liked him very much.
Most importantly, I read this book at just the right time in my life. That might be strange considering I’m 25 reading a ya book. However, it was the exploration of the themes that allowed me to connect. I needed strength in my life and this book gave me the motivation to lift my head high.