Inspired by Alice in Wonderland
The Absolutely True Diary is a first-person narrative from the perspective of a Native American teenager Arnold Spirit Jr., also known as "Junior". The book details Junior's harsh life on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and his decision, upon encouragement from a reservation high school teacher, to go to an all-white public high school in the off-reservation town of Reardan, Washington.
Sherman Alexie's novel is a multicultural text that many English teachers use in order to educate their students about the Native American heritage. The author, Alexie, himself is of the Spokane heritage. This means that he has had first-hand experience of being Native American and facing racism, which gives him the ability to be able to discuss these issues in the context of his ethnicity. As a result, he uses his own background and personal experiences to write this specific novel in a semi-autobiographical format.
However, many adults, especially parents, have rejected this book because they claim that the content and language of the novel are unsuitable for high school students. Other adults also claim that the presence of alcohol in the novel forms a mood of despair and sadness, which could influence children in negative ways. However, many teachers argue in defense of the novel. They refer to the textbook, Sherman Alexie in the Classroom, to claim that the book provides an opportunity to educate non-Native American students to “work through their white guilt and develop anti-racist perspectives.” as explained by reporter Jodi Rave in her article Author puts Native life in the classroom.
Alexie's provocative body of work, ranging from poetry and novels to film scripts, is always sprinkle by his magical imagination which has paved the way for him to become a best-selling novelist, spoken-word poet, stand-up comedian and award-winning filmmaker and short-story writer.
“My brain was drowning in grease. But that makes the whole thing sound weirdo and funny, like my brain was a giant French fry, so it seems more serious and poetic and accurate to say, “I was born with water on the brain.”
"My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people. Adam and Eve covered their privates with fig leaves; the first Indians covered their privates with their tiny hands."
"You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it."
"And let me tell you, that old, old, old, decrepit geometry book hit my heart with the force of a nuclear bomb. My hopes and dreams floated up in a mushroom cloud. What do you do when the world has declared nuclear war on you?"
"You’ve been fighting since you were born,” he said. “You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope."
"It was like being Indian was my job, but it was only a part-time job. And it didn’t pay well at all."
"Two thousand Indians laughed at the same time. … It was the most glorious noise I’d ever heard. And I realized that, sure, Indians were drunk and sad and displaced and crazy and mean, but dang, we knew how to laugh. When it comes to death, we know that laughter and tears are pretty much the same thing."
“I used to think the world was broken down by tribes,” I said. “By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn’t true. The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not.”
"I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms. And to the tribe of cartoonists. And to the tribe of chronic masturbators. And the tribe of teenage boys. And the tribe of small-town kids. And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners. And the tribe of tortilla-chips-and-salsa lovers. And the tribe of poverty. And the tribe of funeral-goers.And the tribe of beloved sons.And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.It was a huge realization.And that’s when I knew that I was going to be okay."
“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 would always love and miss my reservation and my tribe. I hoped and prayed that they would someday forgive me for leaving them. I hoped and prayed that I would someday forgive myself for leaving them."