The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is loosely based on author Sherman Alexie's life. Alexie tells the story of Junior, a 14-year old boy growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. In a diary narration style, the novel explores themes of racism, classism, bullying, alcoholism, and cultural appropriation. It was Alexie's first attempt at writing for a young adult audience, which proved to be very successful - Absolutely True Diary was critically renowned and won a number of awards - including the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
Sixty-five of "Junior's" comics accompany the narrative in The Absolutely True Diary. The cartoons were actually done by artist Ellen Forney and often serve to enhance or deepen the novel's plot. Sometimes, the comics offer supplemental material to Junior's tale, like when Junior draws the different ways he gets to and from school. In other instances, the drawings give a humorous undertone to some of the novel's more serious thematic elements, like a flying white horse meant to symbolize the impossibility of hope for Junior and his Indian peers.
While The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is widely considered to be one of the best young adult novels of recent years, Alexie has received frequent criticism from parents and educators for his frank exploration of subjects like masturbation, alcoholism, homosexuality, and racism. Certain opponents of the novel's inclusion in school curriculums also maintain that Alexie expresses inappropriate anti-white sentiments. Many of the novel's proponents, however, recognize the value of Absolutely True Diary; Alexie is addressing issues with which real teenagers are constantly grappling.