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Course Hero. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Study Guide." December 12, 2016. Accessed November 13, 2018.


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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


Where and how does Junior refer to monsters in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and how are these monsters defeated?

In Chapter 8, "How to Fight Monsters," Junior takes on the bullies at Reardan, who don't beat him up but confront him with verbal attacks. Though Junior is afraid, he's trying on a new identity, and he wants to let the world know he's, "no longer a human target." He picks the wrong mode of attack, but he wins the football player Roger's respect (and bewilderment). The real monster, Junior realizes, was the fear in his mind. He defeats the monsters of prejudice and fear at Reardan by perseverance and the open-mindedness of his grandmother, even though he knows prejudice and fear won't ever fully go away.

How does Ted's status as a cultural outsider at Grandmother's wake in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian compare or contrast with Junior's cultural outsider status at Reardan?

Ted is an outsider who tries to take on the trappings of an insider without recognizing that his race (not to mention his wealth) excludes him from the community. Junior also tries to take on the behavior and habits of white culture, but he knows he can't fully assimilate. His white/Indian comic in Chapter 8 shows the unsolvable differences. Junior's less privileged than the community he joins, but he's self-aware and hyperconscious of how others see him. Ted's more privileged than the community he joins, but he's oblivious to how the Indians see him. Ted downplays his wealth and makes himself out to be generous to the Indian community, when the Native Americans are actually sick of people like him. Mr. P, by contrast, is another white cultural outsider to the Native American community, but he's aware of and even apologetic for his outsider status.

How do Wellpinit students' views of the future compare and contrast with Reardan students' views of the future in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

While Wellpinit Native Americans may have given up on the future, Reardan white kids are putting too much stock in the future, worrying too much. Neither extreme is ideal. Junior is thrilled the first time he hears Coach suggest college to him. But he sees his Reardan classmates, with their college-bound educations guaranteed, acting like "repressed middle-age business dudes" at the expense of enjoying life and developing friendships. After his sister's death, Junior sees the futility of the college prep materials in the guidance counselor's office. The Wellpinit kids, who have bigger problems like troubled home lives, don't see a point in college prep either.

How do Junior and Alexie use comedy to draw in readers of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and discuss serious subjects?

The protagonist and author use humor through comical captions, cynical jokes about serious situations (Junior's health defects and the deaths in his family, for instance), and exaggerated phrasing. Junior's charm and use of hyperbole (overstatements) make the book easier to digest for diverse readers. As a kid born with water on the brain who's been to many funerals, Junior is aware he's had more grief and sorrow in his life than many of his peers. Writing to an audience, he tempers the genuine sadness with jokes. The humor also mimics the casual, self-deprecating tone of a thoughtful teenage boy's diary. Junior's a kid who enjoys physical comedy and roughhousing, even as he's becoming an adult.

How do Native Americans demonstrate and try to overcome depression in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Junior thinks his whole family is depressed. His dad watches basketball, a sport he enjoys, in silence. His parents are both alcoholics (though his mother is sober), and his dad drinks excessively. His sister lives in a basement after graduation. The family shows depression in inertia, substance abuse, and silence. As the Spirit family faces great changes, they become more openly affectionate with one another. The younger Spirits, Junior and Mary, make radical life shifts. Junior's parents fight through their sadness to take him to school and show up at his sporting events. And Junior works through his own melancholy by writing, drawing, and physical activity. He's developing healthier coping mechanisms than his family members in the hopes of change.

Which stereotypes about Native Americans does Alexie address through Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and how does he confront them?

Junior directly addresses several stereotypes: Native Americans are less educated than whites. Junior points out the inadequacy and apathy of the reservation school, and Mr. P reveals he was instructed to harm the students. Native Americans are lazy and don't want to work. Junior references the self-defeating cycle of poverty; "Because you're Indian you start believing that you're destined to be poor." Native Americans get money from the government and from casinos. Junior flat-out says this isn't true and describes the failures of the Indian Health Service. Native Americans are alcoholics. Junior acknowledges the truth of this stereotype. Alcohol has become not only a social lubricant but a coping mechanism on the reservation. Native Americans love ceremony and folktales. Junior does admit Native Americans are good at sounding "serious and sacred" and that they like to make up stories about the world around them, but he sees these as points of pride.

How does Junior's status as a "nomad" make him a traditional Native American in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

Before the European colonization of the Americas, Native Americans weren't confined to reservations. They wandered the land in search of food and water and took their shelter with them. Rowdy senses this same spirit of searching in Junior due to his friend's desire to travel the world. In Junior's time Native Americans stay put on the same piece of land that housed older generations of their families. His own family has done the same. Junior's excitement about life and his desire to see the world make him reminiscent of Native Americans before colonization, when adventure was always a possibility and integral to their way of life.

How does colonialism affect The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian's characters, both Native American and white?

The Native American people in Wellpinit still resent white colonizing powers, which impose limits on Indians into the present day. One of the Spokane Rules of Fisticuffs is to always pick fights with the sons or daughters of Native Americans who work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a rule-enforcing bureaucracy, as well as with whites. Wellpinit natives like Rowdy don't even drive through the town of Reardan. White institutions are also closed to Native Americans, albeit not officially; Reardan still lets Junior attend. But the people on his reservation don't see college as a possibility, and Mary has difficulty finding work. Junior feels he has many identities, including that of American immigrant. His family still celebrates Thanksgiving, a colonialist holiday. Colonialism and the white empire are aspects of his life he can't ignore.

How does Junior express mixed feelings about his reservation, both the people and the land in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

The hopeless behavior of people on the reservation—drinking and picking fights with one another for no reason—leads Junior to conclude it's an environment that does more harm than good. He thinks in order for his fellow Indians to be sober, productive, and strong, they'll have to, "Get the hell off the rez." But Junior knows the pull of addictive behaviors. He also knows how important community is to everyone, but particularly to Native Americans. When his own community exiles him, he feels like he's lost part of himself. Junior admires the way his tribe helps other members during times of trouble and grief. Though he sees the effects of poverty in the reservation buildings, he notices the physical beauty of the reservation as well. From the pine trees, his home looks "green and golden and perfect."

How do the white characters in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian react to violence and death? How does this differ from the Native American characters' responses?

The white characters aren't exposed to death or violence as often. Roger acts like "he was the one who'd been wronged" when Junior hits him in response to a verbal attack. Penelope is horrified when Junior shows her the bruises he got on Halloween. Both view violence as unnecessary escalation, a tool humans don't need to use. For Junior violence is just another way to communicate and be communicated with, though not one he prefers. For other Native Americans, like Rowdy, violence is the main method of conflict resolution in their home, which they take out into the world. Death stymies the white characters so much that they don't know how to talk about it. When Junior learns about his sister's death from Miss Warren, he's put off by the guidance counselor's niceness. Politeness and superficial kindness are coping mechanisms in the white world, but they don't work for Junior, who prefers raw honesty. Death is a fact of life to him, and he doesn't see any need to cover it up.

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