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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Was it best for Junior to attend Reardan in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian?  

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By attending Reardan, Junior gains the confidence needed to break away from his family's legacy of alcohol abuse. Sadly, Junior may have gotten stuck in that cycle if he would have stayed at the school on the Reservation. This enlightens the readers regarding the major inequities in education and the...

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By attending Reardan, Junior gains the confidence needed to break away from his family's legacy of alcohol abuse. Sadly, Junior may have gotten stuck in that cycle if he would have stayed at the school on the Reservation. This enlightens the readers regarding the major inequities in education and the struggles of many young American Indians to hold on to their heritage. Even though it was the best choice for Junior, it wasn't easy for him to go to Reardan. He was ostracized by his friends, even his best friend Rowdy, and community members on the Reservation for making this choice. He had to endure taunts, name calling, and physical abuse at his basketball games, as well as other places on the Reservation. However, Junior found his place at Reardan. He made friends, felt successful in school, and felt like he had an "escape" from the realities of life on the Reservation.

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In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Sherman Alexie is trying to show the trade-offs experienced by Native Americans who are caught between two cultures. On the one hand, Reardan opens up a better education to Junior and knowledge of a wider world. It can lead him to greater economic and educational opportunity and an opportunity to excel as a basketball player. 

Although Junior makes friends at Reardan, he also experiences discrimination and gets a first-hand sense of economic inequality. He also becomes alienated from the community on the reservation. As Alexie portrays the issues of alcohol abuse and violence that is endemic on the reservation, he also shows that the "best and the brightest" need to leave in order to obtain proper educations and must work outside their community to earn high wages, which contributes to a decline in the quality of reservation life and a loss of traditional culture. He also shows a strong sense of community and belonging and spiritual connection among the people on the reservation.

Although Junior does eventually reconcile with Rowdy, there is a sense at the end of the novel that Junior has become a liminal character, caught between two cultures but not able to fully belong to either. Thus Junior's choice is not portrayed as completely positive or negative, but rather as a mix of both.

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In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, it is best that Junior attends Reardan.  After Junior learns that he has been issued his mother's 30-year-old math textbook, he realizes that his education on the reservation is limited by money.  His teacher Mr. P encourages Junior to seek education off the reservation so that he can find a sense of hope.  So Junior leaves the school in Wellpinit to go to Reardan for what he considers a better education.  However, arguably speaking, this apparent goal is not what makes it best that Junior attends Reardan.  What makes it best is that attending Reardan is a way for Junior to exert a sense of agency over his life--he makes a decision that he thinks is best for him.  Other Indians on the reservation label him a "traitor" and a "white-lover," but Junior overcomes this abuse to follow the path that he thinks is best for his own life.  By standing up to detractors, Junior gains self-confidence.  So arguably, the development of a strong sense of self is what makes attending Reardan a great decision for Junior.

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