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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What does Junior identify as the worst thing about being poor in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian?

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Junior relates that the worst part of being poor is having one's dreams deferred or forever forgotten. He realizes that his parents had to give up their dreams because they are poor, and he says:

Seriously, I know my mother and father had their dreams when they were kids. They dreamed about being something other than poor, but they never got the chance to be anything because nobody paid attention to their dreams.

His mother is a voracious reader who would have liked to have attended college and become a teacher or professor. She still reads everything she can lay her hands on. His father would have liked to have become a musician, but poverty crushed his chances at achieving his dreams. Similarly, Junior's sister Mary dreamed of being a writer, but she has not been able to attain her dreams either. Junior rebels against the situation of being too poor to achieve one's dreams when he throws a used math book at his teacher. Junior is tired of receiving an inferior education, and he knows that he must attend a better school in the white town of Reardan, off the reservation, so that he can have a chance to achieve his dreams.

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The worst thing about being poor is being helpless, and not being ablt to help those you love, such as not having the money to take care of your pets when they are sick.

Junior lives on a reservation.  His family is poor, and they came from a poor family.

Junior comments that being hungry is not the worst thing about being poor, because eventually someone will come home with a bucket of chicken, and it tastes better if you have not eaten lately.

When his dog Oscar gets sick, the family does not have money to take him to the vet.

There was nothing I could do to save Oscar. (p. 10)

Being helpless, unable to save Oscar because his family had no money and he had no way to get any, Junior had to watch his best friend be killed.  His father does not want to shoot the dog, but there is no other way. He can't even hate his parents for it, because he loves them and it is not their fault.

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