The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Study Guide

Sherman Alexie

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


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

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, December 12). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



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


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

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Quotes


I draw because words are too unpredictable./I draw because words are too limited.

Junior, Chapter 1

As an avid reader Junior knows the power of words. But he knows words don't always stretch across language and cultural barriers or express the feeling he's trying to convey. His art creates another world, one in which he can honor his loved ones in a way more detailed and honest than words.


We were supposed to kill the Indian to save the child.

Mr. P, Chapter 5

Mr. P is describing how he was taught to instruct Native American students. He was supposed to make them conform to a white world, both by disciplining unruly students and by erasing their arts and culture. Conformity would have made it easier for the students to survive in a school like Reardan, but it would have erased a vital aspect of their selfhood. Mr. P is unwittingly pointing to an identity crisis that will follow Junior throughout the book.


And a warrior isn't afraid of confrontation.

Junior, Chapter 12

Junior's still learning the rules in his new school. As he strives to be a warrior, he learns there are ways other than physical combat to achieve his goal. For instance, he decides to ally with Gordy, the one student who rivals his intelligence, rather than compete with him. Their "confrontation" is nonviolent and leads to productive discussion.


Every moment of a life should be taken seriously.

Junior, Chapter 12

As Gordy teaches him to read deliberately, investigating every word, Junior realizes books are "serious business." He's writing the narrative of his life, both in the diary and in the choices he makes. Now that his choices are having a great impact on him and the people around him, he knows even the smallest decisions he makes have an effect. He matters—he's not a "zero" in the world.


The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know.

Gordy, Chapter 12

Junior has lived on the same small reservation his whole life. He's bored. He's sought other worlds through books. But he begins to learn the seemingly insignificant world of Wellpinit is actually filled with vitally important details, that everyone there has a story he doesn't know. Going to Reardan gives Junior more respect for his reservation and its mysteries.


We all look for ways to make the pain go away.

Junior, Chapter 15

Junior is often confronted with people in pain—people he cares about. He sees their diverse coping mechanisms. Through drawing and athletics he develops coping strategies of his own. Despite the damage alcohol does to his reservation, and despite the damage Penelope is doing to her body by vomiting, he knows there's a hunger for something within—for healing—that keeps people making destructive choices.


You have to dream big to get big.

Dad, Chapter 20

Though the tough reservation environment discourages big dreams, many tribe members harbor them anyway. Junior learns that even the most improbable goals can be within reach. He never imagined himself attending Reardan or making the varsity team, yet he does both.


Each funeral was a funeral for all of us. We lived and died together.

Junior, Chapter 23

The unity in the Wellpinit tribe means every member makes a difference. When Junior thinks no one but Rowdy would care if he was gone, he's wrong. As he learns at Grandmother Spirit's funeral, the loss of one tribe member is a loss to all of them. This means they have greater support than in a disconnected community like Reardan, but it also means loss hits Native Americans especially hard.


We only know how to lose and be lost.

Junior, Chapter 24

Since Native Americans have lost their native land to settlers and been forced onto reservations, they're used to losing—both to losing tangible things and to losing battles. The word losing comes up repeatedly; Junior thinks he's a loser, and later, his family suffers acute loss. This loss is part of the Native American experience. They look for strength and joy elsewhere, but they're familiar with sorrow.

As Junior becomes a nomad, he's aware of the wandering aspect of his people's history—searching for home.


But we love ghosts. We love monsters.

Junior, Chapter 30

Junior refers to the Native American people's love of ghosts and ghost stories—not just spooky stories, but their sense of connection to their ancestors and deceased loved ones. Alexie plays on the stereotype of mystical, magical Native Americans who, "make up shit about lakes" to give Junior a nuanced understanding of monsters and where they come from. Some monsters emerge from pain and fear, some from alcohol and despair. This line, and the "we," also show Junior's attachment to his people and history.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!