The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Summary

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  • 0:04 Junior's School Transfer
  • 1:47 Loss and Sadness
  • 2:31 The Effects of Poverty
  • 3:19 Reconciliation
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

Sherman Alexie's award-winning young adult novel ''The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian'' tells the story of a young Native American boy who is torn between his Indian heritage and a desire to be successful in the white world.

Junior's School Transfer

Sherman Alexie's award-winning young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian tells the story of a young Native American boy who is torn between his Indian heritage and a desire to be successful. Junior, whose real name is Arthur Spirit, lives on a Native American reservation where opportunities are limited. To add to his problems, he was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) which has caused him some physical limitations. Even so, he does fairly well in school and is well-loved by his family. He is also an aspiring artist, adding many drawings to his first-person narrative.

Junior's best friend, Rowdy, is a cynical tough guy. In spite of his rough exterior, Rowdy always has Junior's back - that is, until Junior makes the radical decision to attend the school in the white community rather than the Reservation school.

At his new school, Junior makes friends with Gordy, the school genius and nerd. Gordy is unlike any friend Junior has known, and helps him see the value of reading and imagination. Junior also finds a white girl who likes him at Reardon High School, though she is anorexic and has troubles of her own.

The key component of Junior's career at the white school is his involvement in basketball. Unfortunately, what should have been an accomplishment for Junior turns into a controversy. In a basketball game between his old school and the new one, the conflicting loyalties Junior feels come to a breaking point. Rowdy hits him in the head after Junior suffers jeering and insults from his former Reservation friends. Even in a rematch game, when the white school wins with Junior's help, Junior feels torn between his old loyalties and his new world of opportunity.

Loss and Sadness

During the last half of the book, just when Arthur Junior seems to be having some success, several painful losses come into his life. His beloved and wise grandmother, who represents the Indian side of his life, dies after being hit by a drunk driver.

His father's friend Eugene is shot in the face at a convenience store, which reminds Junior of the random violence inherent in life on the Reservation. Alcohol use is brought out as a continuing problem for Native Americans, causing sadness and loss at every turn.

Arthur's older sister Mary, whom he has always depended on as a friend, dies in an accidental trailer fire. Our young hero struggles to cope with these losses by focusing on his own sense of accomplishment and the joy of success.

The Effects of Poverty

There is no doubt that poverty is a powerful force in the lives of the Native Americans living on the Reservation. The reader sees that it is almost impossible to move forward and make a new life when you begin in Junior's position.

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