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 are the lessons Junior learns about poverty?

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One of the lessons that Junior learns about poverty is that it's closely related to his ethnicity. Living on a reservation with other Native Americans teaches him early on that people like him are at the bottom of society, with a chronic lack of educational and employment opportunities.

In keeping with their lowly status in society, Native-Americans are palmed off with second-rate public services. Junior discovers this when he has to go to the dentist. He has ten extra teeth which would normally be removed over the course of several appointments. However, because Indian Health Services only does major dental work once a year Junior has to have all his extra teeth pulled out in one particularly painful session.

As well as substandard health care, Junior also experiences poor-quality education. The school that Junior attends is chronically underfunded and lacks facilities that schools outside the reservation take for granted. Worse still, Junior and his classmates are expected to work with old, outdated textbooks that their parents used when they were at school. Junior is so angry to discover his mother's name written inside an old geometry textbook that he throws it straight at his teacher, Mr. P.

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