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 five 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 an autobiography, told from the point of view of Junior.

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It seems the entire novel is one traumatic event after another for Junior as he deals with bullies, death, and his attempts to have a normal teenage life. Here are five traumatic events from the book in chronological order.

Changing Schools

Not only does Junior make a life-altering decision to change schools, but this switch involves race. Junior will now be attending a white school over 20 miles away from his home. This choice causes his tribe to hate him, and even his best friend, Rowdy, beats him up when Junior reveals his new life plan. Now he will enter a new environment without any friends.


Junior gets beaten up and robbed on Halloween night as he ironically tries to collect money for the "poor." Not only is he hurt, but he is dealing with the trauma of poverty that, at this point, Penelope is ignorant of.

The Death of His Grandmother

Junior's grandmother was hit and killed by a drunk driver. She dies during surgery. Her last words were to forgive the person who hit her. Junior has to deal with the loss of his biggest supporter on top of forgiving the person who causes this reckless accident.

The Death of Eugene

Eugene was shot in the face in a parking lot over the last drink in a bottle of wine. The friend who shot him was so drunk, he doesn't remember shooting Eugene. Eugene, like Junior's grandmother, was someone Junior could count on. He has now lost another confidant.

The Death of Mary

His sister, Mary, and her husband threw a party in their trailer. It caught on fire, and his sister burned to death because she was too intoxicated to know what was happening. Not only does Junior face this loss, but he has to acknowledge the deeper issues of Native Americans and the reasons alcoholism runs rampant across the country.

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Five traumatic events that occur in the story are:

1) When Junior tells his best friend, Rowdy, that he will be attending Reardan, Rowdy loses his temper. He is so pained by Junior's decision that he lets out his anguish in a shattering scream. Junior tells us that it is the worst thing he has ever heard. Because Rowdy feels powerless to change Junior's decision, he resorts to violence; he shoves Junior and eventually punches Junior in the face. Junior is devastated that he was beaten up by his best friend of fourteen years. This confrontation between Junior and Rowdy is one of the most traumatic events in the story.

2) Junior gets beaten up by Rowdy again, this time during a basketball game between Wellpinit and Reardan. In a close skirmish, Rowdy smashes his elbow into Junior's face and knocks him unconscious. This happens not long after someone lands a quarter on Junior's face, drawing blood. The game is also traumatic for Junior because all the reservation basketball fans turn their backs on him during the event.

3) In order to impress Penelope, Junior tells her that he's dressing as a homeless person for Halloween. He maintains that he's doing this to raise money for homeless Native Americans. On Halloween night, Junior manages to raise ten dollars by going door to door at the reservation. However, he is accosted by three guys on the way home. They beat him up and steal all his Halloween candy (including the ten dollars). Junior tells us that the most traumatic thing that happened to him was that the men spit on him. He tells us that it made him feel like "a slug burning to death from salty spit."

4) One of the most traumatic events that occurs in the story is the death of Junior's grandmother. Junior's grandmother was walking home from a powwow at the Spokane Tribal Community Center when she was run over by Gerald, a Spokane Indian alcoholic. What causes Junior much anguish is that, due to the accident, his grandmother died of massive internal injuries. Junior feels that his grandmother deserved better, as she had never drunk alcohol in her life.

5) The death of Junior's sister is also a tragedy in the novel. Junior is so traumatized by the nature of his sister's death that he resorts to helpless, nervous laughter in order to deal with his deep grief. Accordingly, Junior's sister and her husband passed out drunk in their trailer one night. During this time, someone (possibly a friend or visitor) tried to cook up some soup on a hot-plate. Eventually, they gave up, forgot about the project, and left the trailer. Later, the wind-blown curtains caught on the hot-plate, and a fire blazed through the trailer, killing both Junior's sister and her husband.


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Many traumatic events occur in the life of Arnold Spirit Jr. (or simply "Junior"), the Native American protagonist of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:

  • Oscar, Junior's dog, gets sick. Because his family cannot afford to buy medicine for him, Junior's father shoots the dog. 
  • Junior and his best friend, Rowdy, get into many physical altercations, which usually involve Rowdy hurling homophobic insults at Junior and attacking him. Junior also must deal with the racist jokes of the jocks at his new high school, which causes a fight between Junior and Roger.
  • Junior's family friend, Eugene, is shot in the face by another man, Bobby, during a fight over who gets the last drink from a bottle of wine. Eugene dies, and Bobby doesn't remember pulling the trigger, having been so drunk. Bobby later hangs himself with a sheet while in jail.
  • Junior's Grandma, who he loved tremendously, is killed by a drunk driver as she was returning from a powwow.
  • Junior's sister dies in a fire that was started when someone left a hot plate on during a party. She was drunk at the time.
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What are nine traumatic events in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

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

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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What are some traumas that Junior faced in the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?  

Junior's return to his old school for a basketball game initially proves to be a deeply traumatic event for him. Junior left Wellpinit to attend the predominantly white Reardan, as his old school simply wasn't meeting his educational needs. This generated a lot of animosity among the student body and many others on the reservation. Ever since Junior decided to leave, they've regarded him as nothing more than a traitor.

It's no surprise, then, that Junior is given a hostile reception when he enters the gym with his team. In unison, the crowd starts yelling, "Ar-nold sucks!" Junior never expected the red-carpet treatment, but this is still hard for him to deal with. Try putting yourself in his shoes: how would you feel if a crowd of people started shouting abuses at you? Junior tries his best to be big and brave about it, but the crowd's ceaseless chanting gets to him, and he seriously considers sitting out the big game.

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What are some traumas that Junior faced in the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?  

In the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Junior faces trauma when others around him are not accepting of him as a person.  For example, on the reservation, Junior is harassed and assaulted by the Andruss brothers--thirty-year-old men who think Junior is weird because he has physical disabilities.  Junior tries to handle the situation with humor, but it is clear that he has been traumatized by the fact that adults would treat a teenager so harshly.  Later, when Junior leaves the reservation to go to Reardan, he is again traumatized because he is different.  A group of white students use derogatory terms like "Chief" to taunt Junior, and Junior draws a cartoon of himself feeling so small among large monsters.  So, Junior feels traumatized by situations in which his differences are not accepted and respected.

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