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Course Hero. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2018. <>.

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Course Hero. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Study Guide." December 12, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2018.


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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


How do Junior's health problems and physical defects affect his character growth in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

From birth, Junior's defects mark him as different than most kids on his reservation. He knows he's an outsider from an early age. This knowledge makes it easier for him to make the move off the reservation. It also fuels his friendship with Gordy, a fellow Reardan weirdo. His physical limitations lead him to seek indoor hobbies to avoid being bullied. So he begins to draw the cartoons that will express his desires and, in a way, save his life. He also learns to take solace in reading, which shows him other worlds. Junior turns his deficiencies into strengths. As an athlete, Junior realizes he's especially vulnerable. Each game comes with heightened tension, and Junior knows if he can overcome seizures and fear of injury on the court, he'll be even stronger.

How does Rowdy grow and change over the course of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Rowdy begins the book as an angry, defensive, and aggressive young man, frustrated by the hand life has dealt him, and taking his frustration out through vandalism and bullying. He feels betrayed by his best friend when Junior transfers to Reardan. Afterward, Rowdy has to fend for himself just as much as Junior does. And, like Junior, he channels his rage into sports. Since the reservation loses several members to alcohol-related deaths that school year, Rowdy goes through grief, pain, and a period of blaming Junior. He also loses dramatically on the basketball court. As he questions what Junior's done, he begins to investigate other ways of living and reads about Indian history. He comes to a new understanding of Junior, and the friends meet at the end of the novel with a newfound respect for each other.

What is Grandmother's significance to Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and what does Junior learn from her?

Grandmother epitomizes what Junior loves about Native American culture. She's tolerant of eccentricity and weirdness. She resists the pull of alcohol that tempts most of the other people in Junior's life. She embraces native traditions, and she wants to live as fully as she possibly can. She's the one Native American Junior knows who lives life with hope, despite being on the reservation. Grandmother influences Junior to be enthusiastic about new experiences instead of frightened and to think the best about people. She tells him others will respect him at Reardan, giving him confidence to return after a tumultuous first few days. She also forgives her murderer, which shows Junior how bighearted people are capable of being, even if he's not quite there himself.

How do Mary's death and wake in Chapter 27 ofThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian create examples of situational irony?

Mary's death is the opposite of what the reader expects, and it is especially tragic because she's just started a new life. The move to Montana, and the independence it brought, made her hopeful and optimistic for the first time. Had she stayed in her parents' basement, she wouldn't have been happy, but she might have been safe. Despite Mary's progress in job hunting and writing her book, her old habit of drinking leads to the accident that ends her life. Drinking also makes her death pain-free, a twist Junior doesn't find comforting. The situational irony in Mary's wake, Junior points out, is in the way Native Americans choose to honor her and her husband's drunken deaths: "HEY, LET'S GET DRUNK!" Junior acknowledges people drink out of sadness and grief, but he's more motivated than ever to end the allure of alcohol, at least in his own life.

In what ways are math and equations important to Junior throughout The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Junior, an avid student, uses the language of equations to talk about topics he finds tricky or nuanced, such as masturbation, poverty, and hope. For instance, he multiplies "hope by hope" in his head when he thinks about leaving for a new school. He tends to intellectualize his difficulties, and he takes pride in his enjoyment of math and geometry. He's also learned from an early age to express himself on paper, due to his love of drawing and his speech difficulties. During grief and depression after his grandmother's death, Junior begins making lists. Though not a form of math, those lists are a form of ordering. The list making calms him down and becomes his mode of self-expression; his "grieving ceremony."

How does The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian subvert or downplay the romanticization of poverty?

The bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel) often glorifies the poor starting conditions of protagonists and their perseverance at overcoming poverty. Junior wants nothing to do with this convention. Junior believes the worst thing about being poor isn't hunger but loss of control; he couldn't control when his dog Oscar died. Although he admires his parents, he doesn't think poverty has made them any stronger or better. Instead, Junior believes poverty has held them back from achieving their goals and contributed to his father's alcoholism. Poverty doesn't teach lessons, he says. Poverty only makes the poor think they deserve what they've got, leading them not to take chances. And poverty holds back Wellpinit High School from teaching its students anything but apathy. He portrays positive forces in his life—friendships with Roger and Penelope, and the sense of community on his reservation—as forces that develop in spite of poverty, not because of it. When he chooses to be honest with Penelope about his poverty, he demonstrates self-confidence that shows he refuses to define himself by his circumstances.

How do The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian's multiple deaths, and the increased health risk for Native Americans, affect Junior's story?

Even after Junior's reached the successful end of his first year at Reardan, he knows the attempt to survive could still kill him. Formerly intrigued by academics and college possibilities, he's disillusioned by college prep materials after his sister's death, finding them meaningless. He knows no matter how well he does in school or basketball, he still has his health history and grief to contend with. The Indian Health Service gives Junior one of his first experiences with racial discrimination when the white doctor doesn't believe Native Americans feel as much pain as whites and proceeds to pull all 10 of Junior's extra teeth in the same day. Junior will see Native Americans destroying themselves, too, since Eugene's, Grandmother's, and Mary's deaths could all have been avoided without alcohol and its effects.

How does Junior's basketball skill add to the plot of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

As an athlete Junior is focused on winning and losing. Basketball is a sport his father also enjoys, and it becomes a touchstone of masculinity to Junior. When he makes the varsity team at Reardan, he sees the success as proof that he really does belong there. Junior's sports skills inform the book's major interpersonal conflict between Junior and Rowdy. They're both fighting for their own dignity and pride. Junior's representing his new white world; Rowdy's representing Junior's old world of the reservation. When Junior wins, he wishes he hadn't. Basketball becomes a vehicle for Junior to learn every choice he makes is crucial and that, "One play can change your momentum forever."

What does Junior learn in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian about the pros, cons, and effects of being "weird" or being an outsider?

On the reservation, being an outsider gets Junior bullied constantly. Mr. P acknowledges the teachers and adults are culpable in this bullying, too. But Junior's outsider status is also marked by his love for learning, another reason he's bullied in Wellpinit. It's that love that drives him to change schools, and that may even save his life. Junior's weirdness also leads him to his friendship with Gordy, who encourages him to seek meaning in his love for books. Once Junior has support in his craving for knowledge, he gains more self-respect. Being an outsider does make him especially vulnerable. He's a Native American in a world that glorifies whiteness, a boy with physical defects in a sport that glorifies athleticism. He has to work harder than his Reardan classmates to achieve the same goals, whether his goals are making the team or getting to school.

How does The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian show friends and family hurt Junior as much as they help him?

Struggling with an alcoholic father and a frightened mother, Junior frequently misses school so he can take care of his parents. At a young age he realizes parents are vulnerable adults, and not all-powerful beings. His father breaks his heart by getting drunk around the holidays, but Junior still feels the need to protect him. Rowdy and Junior also hurt each other, both physically and psychologically through betrayal. But as angry as Junior gets at his parents sometimes, he can't live without them. They're "the twin suns around which I orbit." And his family is there for him in significant ways like transporting him to school when they can and showing up at his games. Junior knows his father "loved me as well as he could." And Rowdy is Junior's protector as much as he is an enemy.

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