Finding Humor In Unexpected Places: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

Less Used But Gloriously Wonderful Cover Art

So wonderful when the cover art matches the book.
So wonderful when the cover art matches the book.

Not the Only One Laughing

Finding Laughter in an Unexpected Place: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

I’m just going to flat out say this: I’m a bit in love with Sherman Alexie. This lately has meant devouring any videos of him on youtube, writing a thousand thoughts on some of his amazing insights, and pestering my husband into watching some of the youtube videos of Sherman Alexie (but honey, don’t you want to be culturally diverse? Hon, you must not love me because you don’t make any time for my literary obsessions!). Having recently read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I can’t wait to hit Half Price to read his other stuff. This book deserves some love and attention theoretically because it’s the kind of book a lit snob can say, “Yes, I am now culturally diverse,” and realistically because there are so many things in there that are roll on the floor laughing, I can’t believe you just said that. Yeah, it’s that kind of amazing brain child that I’m trying to determine where it fits on my list of all time literary greats.

But enough with the tedium. Sherman Alexie’s book is about an Indian who leaves his home on the rez to attend a white school “where the only other Indian is the school mascot.” Told with unflinching honesty and humor, Junior relays his freshman year high school experience in which he falls in love with a white girl (hilarious), becomes the star of his basketball team (great underdog kind of story while questioning the true underdog), loses a lot of family members and friends to alcoholism (a frustrating problem that Sherman Alexie addresses in other talks and works), and struggles with what it means to be an Indian who has left his culture behind. Based on the author’s own experiences, it is the fascinating, mesmerizing kind of read that should be a must in the classroom (although objections have been raised by those on grounds of morality).

Now, having read this fabulous work, I must also recommend the film Smoke Signals and the work that’s based on: the Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. While maintaining a sense of humor, both works again delve into the devastation that alcoholism has caused for the characters that are again based on Sherman Alexie’s experiences. In fact, when accused of promoting stereotypes in regard to his treatment of alcoholism in this work, Alexie states "when I write about the destructive effects of alcohol on Indians, I am not writing out of a literary stance or a colonized mind's need to reinforce stereotypes. I am writing autobiography."(Alexie 2005). Yet despite the sad trend and harshness of life depicted in the works, it is Alexie’s characters who are truly the ones that shine. A story about two young men and the struggle of what it means to forgive your father, the characters seem to be quite opposite one another at times. Thomas-Builds-the-Fire is the optimistic, nerdy kid with glasses who is perpetually telling stories and being somewhat crazy. Then, there’s Victor, the more cynical, athletic one who is questioning what it means to be an Indian along with his own quest to determine his complex relationship with his father.

Having read more than a few reviews of all works pertaining to Sherman Alexie, I think it’s fair to state that I’m not the only one who has had the strange experience of realizing that Native Americans are no longer just that group of people read about in history books and defined by colonist interaction with them as depicted in Dances With Wolves (a movie I still enjoyed). Below are some links showcasing why Alexie is incredibly funny and deserving of all the recognition he has received. Also, the videos again are just hysterical and priceless for the witticisms. My dubious favorite is the one where Sherman Alexie manages to completely stump Colbert. Yeah, he's that good. Happy trails!

Comments 5 comments

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I want to say, "great discovery!" but then you'll realize just how out of the loop I am.

This guy is funny, and his descriptions of reality are "pull no punches."

I like his giddy adrenaline filled interview-it's got him seizing the moment.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Gosh. . . . .I'm always troubled by Native Americans, and the horrible way in which alcohol treats them. My Grandfather used to describe his family as "a bunch of drunks," and it's true-I've got lots of alcoholics on that side.

Grandfather's Mother was a Native American.

Me? Alcohol can change me from Oscar, the grouch-into David Letterman. . . .in little to nothing.

And I use it so casually, without ill effect. It's "sobering" to think about just how different it truly is for some others.


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 6 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

I'm not really in the loop either. I just occasionally catch the news briefing.

Yeah, Sherman Alexie talks a lot about the problem of alcoholism among Native Americans. I never realized how devastating of a problem it was. He actually got criticized for using the "stereotypical drunk Indian" in the Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, but his response is that his characters are based on his experiences, not stereotypes. Eye-opening, and very sad.


Rusty C. Adore profile image

Rusty C. Adore 5 years ago from Michigan

Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite authors. I was assigned his Y.A. piece "Flight" for a literature of American Minorities class in college and I just fell in love with his style. I love the way his characters address the reader.

I was actually lucky enough to meet him! I was so nervous! I shook like crazy when I asked if he would take a photo with me! If you have time (and haven't already read these) give "Flight" and "Indian Killer" a read. His short story "The Toughest Indian in the World" is also really good! (Quotation overload, I apologize) Sherman Alexie really is amazing though. Excellent hub!


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 5 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain Author

Man, that's so awesome! I think I would have either been a complete spaz or acted like an overly giddy youth. He's so funny! I love the points he makes in his book -- they're hilarious and so true!

I've been meaning to read more of his stuff for a while. Thanks for the recommendations. I will definitely add them to my list! Love the quotation overload, by the way. You seem like a kindred spirit and pretty awesome person! Love the comments!

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