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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Why was Junior bullied in "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"?

Quick answer:

Junior is bullied for his physical disabilities, his decision to attend Reardan High, and his race.

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In the first part of the book, Junior is bullied for his physical disabilities. He was born with a birth defect that impairs his vision (forcing him to wear glasses) and causes seizures and a speech impediment, making him easy prey for bullies.

When Junior decides to go to Reardan High, an all-white school off of the reservation, he is bullied for a different reason. Now, everyone on the reservation sees him as a racial and cultural traitor: they compare him to an apple, since he is "red" on the outside but now apparently "white" on the inside. He is bullied at Reardan as well, seen as a racial other and social misfit by the white students. Everywhere he goes, Junior is essentially an outsider, seemingly doomed to never belong for one reason or another.

Junior's arc has him rising above the bullies. He stands his ground, keeping to his decision to go to Reardan to make a better future for himself, but he also decides to stay true to his heritage and loved ones on the reservation, no matter how hard his critics choose to make life for him. In the end, Junior makes the varsity basketball team despite his physical impediments. He does not allow the limited views others have of him determine what he will do with his life.

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