Dear Sherman Alexie,
While reading your book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I realized I
have experienced some of the same things your character, Arnold (AKA Junior) went
through. I moved from an Alaskan village to a city. I am Alaska Native, born in the
village of Kotzebue. I read your book a few years after I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska. I
was made fun of a lot at school because the way I talked, my Inupiaq name, and because I
was just new.
When I first moved to Fairbanks it felt awkward to talk to people because I was afraid of
being teased because I said bag weird or my grammar wasn’t correct. People used to say
“You talk funny” or laugh whenever I talked. I just shook it off most of the time. Junior
went through the same situation with his lisp and his stuttering.
Also, when Arnold was asked what his name was and he said, he was “Junior”, and
people thought that it was odd. I felt a connection to your character Arnold. My middle
name is Putuguuluk. I was teased for having a name with so many U’s and that it sounded
weird or that I even had an Inupiaq name. I’m proud to have an Inupiaq name because it
is part of who I am. It really made me feel mad when people teased me about that.
Being the “new” kid in school can go one of two ways. You can either start at the bottom,
being teased and made fun of, and climb your way up the social ladder-or you start at the
top. I think the chances of starting off at the top are very slim. Like Junior, I started at the
bottom. Not knowing the people, not knowing the school, and not knowing the social
standards that kids set up. It was challenging to deal with the teasing and the stress of
school, but I made it out okay. I felt Arnold also started at the bottom and climbed his
way up the social ladder by finding friends, sports and other ways.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian made a connection to my life and I
thank you for writing your word and their powerful meaning of knowing who you are. It
definitely made me reflect on my past and how it made me stronger.
Your reader,
Nicholas Kowalski
Randy Smith Middle School