Why does Junior describe his grandmother as tolerant in  Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In chapter 22 titled "Red Versus White" of Sherman Alexie's novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, just after protagonist Junior's grandmother has been killed by a drunk driver from the reservation, Junior reflects on what made his grandmother such a great person. In Junior's mind, his grandmother was great because "she was tolerant."

To illustrate his grandmother's tolerance, he explains how Indians in the past had always been accepting, or even "forgiving," of those who were eccentric; he even notes that "weird people were often celebrated." As an example, he explains that epileptics frequently became shamans because "people just assumed that God gave seizure-visions to the lucky ones." As another example, he points out that homosexuals were also treated by Indians as "magical." However, sadly, when Christians began influencing Indians, Christians brought along their judgmental behavior, and Indians "gradually lost all of their tolerance," except for his grandmother, who still clung to old tolerance beliefs.

To illustrate his point that his grandmother should be celebrated for her tolerance, he points out that she spoke with everyone in Spokane, including the homeless and the "invisible people" the homeless were seen talking to. Junior's most profound point is that, after having been hit by the drunk driver, while she was still alive in the operating room, his grandmother said, "Forgive him," meaning the drunk driver who hit her.

Hence, Junior describes his grandmother as a tolerant person because he sees her as the kind, loving, and forgiving person she truly was.

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