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'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian' and its complicated legacy

Expert readers discuss The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

We asked our readers to vote on a frequently banned or challenged book that they'd like to read with the book club — and it was a tie! Check out our conversation about The Hate U Give here.

One of the most frequently challenged or banned books in schools across the country is Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a young adult novel that Alexie says is based on his life growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in northeastern Washington state. It tells the story of Arnold Spirit Jr. as he tries to chart a new course for his future — leaving the underfunded school on his reservation for the so-called white school in a nearby town.

On this episode of The Talk of Iowa Book Club, three expert readers join host Charity Nebbe to discuss the book as well as their own experiences.


  • Christina Roberts | director of the Indigenous Peoples Institute at Seattle University; associate professor in English and in women, gender, and sexuality studies at Seattle University and an enrolled member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community
  • Leah Slick Driscoll| social studies teacher at the Meskwaki Settlement School, enrolled member of the Meskwaki Nation and a descendant of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
  • Lance Foster | archaeologist, author, artist and vice chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Caitlin Troutman is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio