From the title of Sherman Alexie’s novel, one might assume the book would be as indicated, the true diary of a Native American. Yet, the first few sentences set up the reader for the author’s tone and intentions throughout the novel , and by the second sentence Alexie admits that what he said before was, “not exactly true (1).” In admitting the falsity of his first statement, Alexie is also implying that the things he will say later may not be truthful; he prepares his reader to think about the reality of everything he says throughout the story. In this manner he addresses stereotypes, which he claims everyone knows are true, even though he has already admitted he lies as a narrator. Thus, a young reader begins to think about what Alexie is really communicating through his narrator, Arnold Spirit Jr.
The way Alexie chooses to use a title in which he includes the words absolutely, true, and diary only to fill the pages of the novel with a story of sarcasm and exaggeration in order to make a point about things people believe about others is brilliant. There are times in the text when notions about Native American culture which might have been brought up to make a point about ignorance are lost on readers, because they don’t know enough to realize they are being naïve. However, the hyperbolic repetition Alexie uses throughout the text when discussing the alcoholism of Junior’s family, friends, and community cannot be mistaken. After this “problem” is mentioned so many times, a reader must finally think that even on a reservation, it is not possible that every single person drinks. The same modes of thinking hold true for white people.
When Junior attends Reardan High School, he assumes that all of the students are rich, smart, and perfect. The illustration he draws representing a white boy’s attire is very far-fetched with Tommy Hilfiger pants, Michael Jordan shoes, and a Timex watch, as many white kids don’t have parents who can afford these things. Perhaps the best example of Arnold discovering that white people also have faults and emotional deficiencies is when he hears Penelope, his dream girl in the bathroom next to him throwing up. If the most beautiful and popular girl in the white school is bulimic, his ideas about the flawlessness of all the white kids must change along with his image of her.
Fittingly Junior does begin to see that the labels he had in his head involving both Indians on his reservation and the white people outside of it cannot continue to exist if he wants to keep attending Reardan High, remain close to the people he feels he has betrayed, and eventually fulfill his personal dream of leaving the reservation. The title of the book is ironic and Junior’s diary cannot be true; because, as he finds out, all people are different. It’s like he says to his teacher, Mrs. Jeremy, “I used to think the whole world was broken down by tribes. By black 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 (178).”