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At various points in Sherman Alexie’s book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the narrator comments on the problem of alcoholism among Native Americans.
At one point, for instance, he laments the death of his grandmother, who died not in the expected ways – from one of the diseases associated with old age – but rather by being struck and killed by a drunk driver. The narrator comments,
I mean, the thing is, plenty of Indians have died because they were drunk. And plenty of drunken Indians have killed other drunken Indians.
But my grandmother had never drunk alcohol in her life. Not one drop. That’s the rarest kind of Indian in the world.
I know, like, five Indians in our whole tribe who have never drunk alcohol.
Elsewhere the narrator refers to Native Americans who lack any kind of musical ability:
. . . I’m afraid of the Indians who aren’t dancers and singers. Those rhythmless, talentkless, tuneless Indians are most likely to get drunk and beat the shit out of any available losers.
And I am always the most available loser.
At another point, the narrator comments,
. . . my parents love me so much that they want to help me. Yeah, Dad is a drunk and Mom is an ex-drunk, but they don’t want their kids to be drunks.
References to alcohol and to alcoholism are very prominent in Alexie’s book. So is the implication that alcoholism is a special challenge for Native Americans. Some scholars, trying to explain the unusual rates of alcoholism among this group, point to the often depressing conditions that exist on “Indian reservations.” Other scholars assert that Native Americans are genetically less resistant to alcohol than are persons of some other ethnic backgrounds. Some scholars emphasize both explanations simultaneously. Whatever the explanation, Alexie emphasizes drinking and drunkenness very often in his book, almost always in ways that stress their unfortunate consequences. Frequently alcoholism is cited as the cause of violence and sometimes even of fatalities.
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