What are nine traumatic events in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a story filled with tragedy, yet made infinitely readable and enjoyable by the main character's sense of humor.

The first tragic incident happens in chapter two, when Junior's dog, Oscar, gets sick. Since there is no money to take him...

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a story filled with tragedy, yet made infinitely readable and enjoyable by the main character's sense of humor.

The first tragic incident happens in chapter two, when Junior's dog, Oscar, gets sick. Since there is no money to take him to a vet, his father takes the dog out back and shoots him.

Secondly, after deciding to transfer from Wellpinit High School to Reardan, a school predominantly for white children, Junior's life-long friend, Rowdy, disowns him.

Thirdly, on his first day at Reardan High, Junior is stared at and called crazy after he punches a white boy, which, while perfectly acceptable on the reservation, is unheard-of behavior in his new environment.

Fourth, upon arriving home from school one day, Junior discovers that his sister, Mary, who had previously been a recluse who seldom came out of the basement, has eloped and left for Montana with her new husband. This throws the family dynamic into upheaval and forms another traumatic incident for Junior.

Fifth, while bunking history class one day, Junior makes the painful discovery that Penelope, one of the closes friends he has made at Reardan and a romantic interest, is bulimic.

Sixth, Junior makes the basketball team at Reardan, and their first match is against Wellpinit High. This in itself is a traumatic experience for Junior, and it was made infinitely worse when his former best friend, Rowdy, knocks him out.

Seventh, a couple of months later, Junior's father's best friend, Eugene, is shot dead in a dispute over a bottle of wine. This takes place in the immediate aftermath of the death of Junior's grandmother, and leaves him questioning a lot about life and death.

Eighth, when the Reardan basketball team has a rematch against Wellpinit, Junior is instrumental in his team's victory. When he looks at the Wellpinit team at the end of the game, however, he feels like a traitor.

Lastly, yet another devastating death hits home for Junior, forming a ninth traumatic event, when his sister Mary dies in a fire in her home in Montana.

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Among others, trauma is one of the major themes of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Trauma seems to be a reality of life for Junior, and everyone around him has had at least one traumatizing experience. 

Beginning with Junior, we know he was born with hydrocephalus and a number of craniofacial abnormalities. Though Junior survived his birth defect, it left him with lasting impairments. Junior's birth and resulting impairments have been physically traumatic for him and emotionally traumatic for both Junior and his parents.

Another example of trauma Junior faces is the harshness of poverty. In one particular event, Junior's father must kill the family dog because they cannot afford to take it to the veterinarian.

Junior is picked on for his physical appearance and introverted personality. At an annual powwow, a group of local boys attack Junior and beat him up. Later that year at Halloween, Junior is attacked for a different reason. Three boys beat him up because they consider Junior a traitor for choosing to go to the "white school" off of the reservation.

Junior's best friend Rowdy experiences regular trauma at home. His parents are addicted to alcohol and often fight. To escape the violence at home, Rowdy spends a lot of time with Junior.

Penelope, a girl at Reardan High who Junior has a crush on, has bulimia and vomits in the school bathrooms. Eating disorders are an example of ongoing and self-inflicted trauma.

Junior's sister Mary has moved away and become addicted to alcohol. One night, she and her boyfriend are so drunk that they do not wake up when their trailer catches fire. Junior and his parents are devastated.

In addition to Mary's death, Junior's family is dealing with the loss of his grandmother. Even though she never drank alcohol, his grandma was killed by a drunk driver.

In the growing list of deaths, Junior's father's best friend was shot by someone who was so drunk that they cannot remember the incident. The man hangs himself while in jail.

Though this seems like a very heavy and depressing list of events, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is woven with comedy and tells a very relatable story of life at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Author Sherman Alexie does a very good job of presenting a wide variety of traumas, from ten-second happenings to years of turmoil. Many authors present trauma as a one-off event that leads directly into recovery. In reality, our lives may be fraught with trauma.

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