1. Lead a discussion among your classmates as to what Penelope’s motivation was in developing a relationship with Junior. Do you think Penelope was merely curious about Junior’s culture? Do you suspect that her attraction to Junior would have been the same if he were white? Did she like him because he was different? Or was there some common quality or interest that they shared?
2. In what ways are Mr. P (Junior’s math teacher at Wellpinit) and the rich white man who showed up for Grandmother Spirit’s funeral (the man with the powwow costume) alike, and how do they differ? How do they relate to Native American culture? What do their actions and their words suggest about their personalities?
3. Why was Junior so driven to beat Rowdy at the final basketball game between Reardan and Wellpinit?
4. When Rowdy and Junior climbed the tallest tree near the lake, why was the view so astounding to them? Do you suspect that it might have affected Rowdy differently than Junior? How so?
5. What do you think the message was in the story of the dead horse in Turtle Lake? Can you find any way this story ties into Junior’s other experiences?
6. How did Eugene (the man who rode the motorcycle) affect Junior differently than Junior’s father did? How were the men alike? How did they differ?
7. Which character had the most profound effect on Junior’s life? Back up your selection with passages from the novel.
8. Why do you think Rowdy reacted so strongly to Junior’s leaving the reservation to go to school? What in Rowdy’s background leads you to believe this?
9. With whom do you think Junior had the closer relationship: Penelope, Roger, or Gordy? Use text to prove your point of view. How did these relationships differ? How were they the same?
10. What is the significance of Junior’s comment at the end of the book, when he and Rowdy are playing one-on-one basketball, and Junior says, “We didn’t keep score”? What are some of the implications underlying this statement? What does it say about Junior and Rowdy’s relationship?
11. Alexie often uses humor in his work, even when he writes about painful memories. Why do you think he does this? Look for examples where Alexie uses this technique in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.