illustration of main character, Junior, holding a basketball and looking over his shoulder

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie
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Is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a true story?

While The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a work of fiction and therefore not a true story as far as the characters are concerned, the book reflects many of Alexie's own experiences, including growing up on a reservation, struggling to fit in at an off-reservation school, and facing prejudice.

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While Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a work of fiction, the main character, Junior Spirit, and many of his experiences are based on the author himself and his own life.

When Junior was born on the Spokane Indian reservation, he had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and wasn't expected to live. Yet somehow, he survived. Alexie, too, was born with this condition and survived despite the odds against him. Junior has lasting effects from the hydrocephalus, including the need for strong glasses. Alexie also experienced that, although Junior's condition is worse than the author's. Both were bullied because of their differences from other kids. Further, both Alexie and Junior are sons of alcoholic fathers.

As the book progresses, Junior goes to high school off the reservation and plays on the school basketball team. Alexie did the same, and they both faced the prejudice of the other students and the struggles to fit in. Alexie often experienced pressure to just be quiet, for an Indian isn't "supposed to" be smart. Yet he was and is. He did not fail as he was expected to, and neither does Junior, who in spite of all the challenges, makes it to the end of the school year with decent grades. He proves his opponents wrong, just like Alexie did.

Indeed, Alexie once noted that his novel is "about seventy-eight percent true." In fact, the book started out as a memoir of his own experiences and only later shifted into a young-adult novel. Still, Alexie's own life echoes throughout the book, and through Junior's experiences, readers get a sense of what it was really like to grow up caught between two worlds.

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