My reading of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Double entry journal

1, the plot:

Then, after my fifteenth or twentieth missed day of school, I sat in my social studies classroom with mrs. jeremy. Mrs. Jeremy was an old bird who´d taught at reardan for thirty-five years. I slumped into her class and sat in the back of the room.
“Oh, class” she said. “We have a special guest today. It´s Arnold Spirit. I didn´t realize you still went to this school, Mr. Spirit.”
The classrom was quiet. They all knew my family had been living inside a grief-storm. And had this teacher just mocked me for that?
“What did you just say?” I asked her.
“You really shouldn´t be missing class this much”, she said.
If I´d been stronger, I would have stood up to her. I would have called her names. I would have walked across the room and slapped her.
But I was too broken.
Instead, it was Gordy who defended me.
he stood with his textbook and dropped it.
He looked so strong. He looked like a worrior. He was protecting me like Rowdy used to protect me. Of course, Rowdy would have thrown the book at the teacher and then punched her.
Gordy showed a lot of courage in standing up to a teacher like that. And his courage inspired the others.
Penelope stood and dropped her textbook. And then Roger stood and dropped his textbook.
Then the other basketball players did the same.
Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

In several ways, this part of the book represents the plot. Before this scene, Alberts sister and grandmother has died. You can read that his classmates are now defending him, and by doing that, they are showing that he is one of them and that they care about him. This is just what the book is about, Alberts transition from one environment to another very different environment. But maybe not that different after all? Maybe it doesn´t matter where you come from? The students all stand together against the unfair treatment of a teacher. This is a beautiful part of the book.

2, the theme:

“I want to go to Stanford and study architecture.”
“Wow, that´s cool,” I said. “But why architecture?”
“Because I want to build something beautiful. Beacause I want to be remembered.”
And I couldn´t make fun of her for that dream. It was my dream, too. And Indian boys weren´t supposed to dream like that. And white girls from small town weren´t supposed to dream big, either.
We were supposed to be happy with our limitations. But there was no way penelope and I were going to sit still. Nope, we both wanted to fly […]

I believe the themes of the book are affinity, dreams and race. Arnold is having a deep conversation with his white pretty girlfriend Penelope. They are talking about their dreams for the future and their limitations. To me, it seems like Arnold have believed that white “rich” kids have unlimited opportunities compared to him, but now he realizes that this may not be the case. Penelope has to fight for her dreams as well. Also, I like the last sentence, it is a nice linguistic picture: “We both wanted to fly”.

3, the setting:

“All these kids have given up,” he said. “All of your friends. All the bullies. And their mothers and fathers have given up, too. And their grandparents gave up and their grandparents before them. And me and every other teacher here. We´re all defeated.”
Mr. P was crying […]
“But not you,” Mr. P said. “You can´t give up. You won´t give up. You threw that book in my face because somewhere inside you refuse to give up.”[…]
“If you stay on this rez,” Mr. P said, “they´re going to kill you. I´m going to kill you. We´re all going to kill you. You can´t fight us forever.”[…]
“Son,” Mr. P said. “you´re going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation.”

These are quotes from a conversation Arnold is having with his teacher. After throwing a book in the teachers face, Arnold got a suspension and Mr. P consults him outside his home. Arnold threw the book in frustration after finding out it was previously used by his mom. The book was old and proved that the school did not evolve. Mr. P describes a place with angry people and no hope or dreams, he wants the boy out of this place. This is the setting of the story: a sad, sad, sad reservation.

4, character development:

“No, I´m serios. I always knew you were going to leave. I always knew you were going to leave us behing and travel the world. I had this dream about you a few months ago. You were standing on the Great Wall of China. You looked happy. And I was happy for you.”
Rowdy didn´t cry. But I did.
“You´re an old-time nomad,” Rowdy said. “You´re going to keep moving all over the world in search of food and water and grazing land. That´s pretty cool.”
I could barely walk.
“Thank you,” I said.

This part is from the last page of the book. Arnold and Rowdy are friends again, something that proves Arnold is still a part of his old community. Rowdy describes Arnold as a nomad. Maybe he was a nomad all the time, or maybe he developed as one. I believe a little bit of both. He was not nearly as brave or confident at the start of the book, he have been on a big journey.



3 thoughts on “My reading of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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