What are some parallels between Sherman Alexie's own life and the life of his main character in The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Alexie sees his own life in The Absolutely True Story of a Part- Time Indian. Junior's narrative is similar to Alexie's in specific ways.

One way Alexie's own life and the life of his main character are similar can be seen in the conditions of their births.  Both are born with hydrocephalus.  As a result, other people mock their physical conditions.  Alexie was subjected to bullying because of his physical stature, being called "The Globe" as a reference to the size of his head.  Similarly, as a result of looking "different," other kids on the reservation bully Junior.   

Another similarity is in how they were raised.  Both Alexie and Junior live on Native American reservations outside of Spokane, Washington. Aditionally, they live in poverty.  Alexie grew up in financially challenging conditions and Junior is shown to live in similar economic constraints.  Connected to this is the role of their fathers.  Both Alexie and Junior have fathers who are alcoholics.  

The struggles that connect both Alexie and Junior extend to their academic choices.  Both decide to leave their respective reservations' schools and enter Reardan High School, which is predominantly populated by white students. Junior and Alexie experience the pain of being "the only Native American." However, they seek to overcome this by taking full advantage of what is offered.   Alexie played on the basketball team at Reardan, as does Junior. Junior seeks to immerse himself in the Reardan culture, something that Alexie himself embraced as he was elected Class President and participated in many social activities at Reardan.

Alexie has admitted that he was conscious of how much the book he wrote mirrored his own life.  With this in mind, it is not surprising to see that there are specific parallels between Alexie's own life and that of his main character.

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