illustration of main character, Junior, holding a basketball and looking over his shoulder

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie
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How does Junior struggle with identity?

When it comes to identity, Junior struggles with feeling like an outcast on both the Spokane reservation and at the all-white Reardan High.

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Junior mainly struggles with his racial/cultural identity. He is a Spokane Indian living on a reservation where poverty and alcoholism are major problems. Both his parents and his older sister, Mary, despite being good people at heart, have given up on life, resigned to their impoverishment. Junior is a bright...

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Junior mainly struggles with his racial/cultural identity. He is a Spokane Indian living on a reservation where poverty and alcoholism are major problems. Both his parents and his older sister, Mary, despite being good people at heart, have given up on life, resigned to their impoverishment. Junior is a bright kid with big dreams of becoming a comic book artist, yet it seems that life on the reservation will only limit his chances at making something of himself—there is every chance he will end up like his sister Mary, frustrated and reclusive. This is why Junior makes the decision to attend Reardan High, an all-white school off the reservation, even though it means his fellow Spokane Indians will view him as a traitor, a sellout to white people.

The white students at Reardan do not wholly accept Junior, either. He is the only Spokane Indian at the school and therefore an oddity, and his physical disabilities only add to this. While Junior eventually makes friends at the school, as well as a place on the basketball team, his white friends are not able to totally understand his position. Among the Spokane Indians, he is seen as too white, and among the Reardan kids, he is seen as an Indian.

Junior struggles to define himself on his own terms, forfeiting neither his cultural heritage nor the new connections he's made at Reardan. Ultimately, he succeeds in integrating himself into both worlds without compromising himself or feeling torn apart. As Junior later explains, "The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not."

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