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? What five adjectives describe Junior?

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In Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior struggles with growing up on a Spokane reservation, being teased for his appearance, and feeling a lack of opportunity in his life. Junior's family is very poor, like most of the families on the "Rez." He feels that the only way for him to break the cycle of poverty, alcoholism, and lack of opportunity which surrounds him is to go to a school of primarily white students off of the reservation. In addition to the stress of being the new kid in school, Junior must deal with feelings of guilt that he is betraying his community by leaving the reservation school. Deep down, Junior wants a better life for himself and his family, and knows what has to be done.

The worst thing about being poor, according to Junior, is that you can't help the people you love. While money might buy a better house for his family, or medicine for his sick dog, Junior simply can't afford those things. It is a sad truth for many First Nations people who live on reservations today that they are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Junior is a very caring young man, who feels deeply for his family, friends, and community. Junior is both very caring and profound to be aware of the system he is trapped in and make the tough decision to break the cycle. 

Junior is also very creative and uses his art to express himself. He draws cartoons to amuse his friends and to deal with situations in his everyday life. Junior has been teased about his appearance for most of his life because he was born with hydrocephaly, resulting in him having a big head and needing to wear "ugly, thick" glasses. Junior has become very resilient to such teasing and has found that he prefers to spend time by himself. When Junior begins attending the "white school," he surprises everyone, even himself, by being courageous enough to try out for the basketball team. 

I think that above all, Junior is motivated. He is keenly aware of what his family's circumstances are like, and he feels a strong sense of duty to make things better.

I hope that if you read through my description of Junior, you can find enough adjectives to describe his personality.

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