Questions and Answers: Because My Father Always Said He was the only Indian who saw Jimi Hendrix Play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock and This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona
1. Which role does music play in Victor’s childhood?
2. Why does Victor agree to accept help from Thomas, and how is his decision significant to “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”?
3. How are Victor’s and Thomas’s attitudes toward their Native American identity different?
4. To what extent are these attitudes changed or resolved by the end of these stories?
5. How do childhood memories affect the meaning of both stories?
1. Experience of music brings the family together despite the conflicts that often divide them. Victor associates Jimi Hendrix’s music in particular with moments of connection or understanding that he shared with his father.
2. Victor agrees to help Thomas after remembering a scene from their childhood. His decision indicates that the friendship will be rekindled, at least to some extent, during the trip to Arizona.
3. Victor is uncertain of his identity; his abandonment symbolizes the damage caused to Native American home life by the infiltration of white customs. Thomas, by comparison, is certain of his identity; he cannot help but play the role of storyteller as both a child and adult, a clear symbol of Native American tradition.
4. Both men remain steadfast in their convictions and traits, although they more directly recognize and understand the significance of their life histories, a sign that they are beginning to affirm their identities.
5. Childhood memories help to develop these characters and explain the conflicts that they face in these, and other, stories. They merge past and past as a way to address Native American identity, a common technique in Alexie’s writing.