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

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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