The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
By Sherman Alexie
CHAPTER RESPONSE QUESTIONS
Directions: Respond to these questions in your journal after you read each chapter of True Diary. You do not have to re-write the question. Write the page numbers/chapter name as a heading, and then number your answers to correspond with the question you’re answering.
1. The Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club (1-6)
- Junior describes himself as having a head “so big that little Indian skulls orbited around it” (3). He also has a stutter, a lisp, is susceptible to seizures, wears “ugly, thick, plastic” (3) glasses and is skinny with huge hands and feet. Due to this people call Junior a “retard” and he is beaten up at least once a month (4). Would Junior be bullied or teased in another school? Why/why not?
- Why does Junior draw cartoons? What do the first two cartoons depict? What does this tell us about Junior?
- Describe the style of writing, also known as the author’s “voice,” in the first chapter. Give specific examples of at least three of these techniques/devices that establish Alexie’s voice as Junior: dark humor, metaphor, irony, hyperbole (deliberate exaggeration), rhetorical questions, intentional sentence fragments, sentence variety, and parallel sentence structure.
2. Why Chicken Means So Much to Me (7-14)
- What does Junior identify as the worst thing about being poor?
- Junior says, “We Indians really should be better liars, considering how often we’ve been lied to” (10). Considering what you know about American history, does Junior have a reason to feel this way? Why or why not?
- What happens to Oscar? What does this illustrate to the reader about Junior’s relationship to his parents?
- How do the cartoons on pages 8 and 12 add to the reader’s understanding of how poverty is a cycle for Junior’s family?
- Use five adjectives to describe Junior’s personality so far.
- How does the author’s use of italics add to the authenticity of Junior’s voice in this chapter? Give examples.
3. Revenge Is My Middle Name (15-24)
- Describe Rowdy and Junior’s relationship. What do they do for each other?
- What is the Spokane Powwow?
- What does Rowdy do to the Andruss brothers? Why? What does this demonstrate about his friendship with Junior?
- “The revenge Rowdy’s takes on the Andruss brothers is warranted.” Agree or disagree with this statement and justify your response with textual evidence.
4. Because Geometry Is Not a Country Somewhere Near France (25-31)
- In defense of this chapter, it has been argued that “The sexual references are necessary to give Junior an authentic voice.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
- Why does Junior say his sister is called “Mary Runs Away,” and how does he see himself as different from her?
- Junior speculates that Mr. P might be part of the Witness Protection Program. If this were true, according to Junior why would it make sense for Mr. P to teach on the reservation?
- Why is Junior so cynical about white teachers?
5. Hope Against Hope (32-43)
- Why does Junior throw his geometry book? What does it signify?
- Mr. P tells Junior that the teachers at the school used to beat the Indians with a stick: “That’s how we were taught to teach you. We were supposed to kill the Indian to save the child.” What does he mean?
- Why does Mr. P say the following? “Every white person on this rez should get smashed in the face. But, let me tell you this. All the Indians should get smashed in the face, too” (40).
- What is Mr. P’s advice to Junior? Why does he give him this advice?
6. Go Means Go (44-47)
- Why does Junior decide to attend Reardan? Are they valid reasons?
- How do Junior’s parents react to his decision to change schools? What does this show about them?
- What does Junior mean by the phrase, “Driving While Indian”?
7. Rowdy Sings the Blues (48-53)
- How are sporting results used to compare the two schools? Why is it significant that Rowdy performed well at most competitions? (Bonus: what literary reference is used to compare the two schools?)
- Why does Junior’s decision to change schools make Rowdy so furious? Is Rowdy’s anger justified?
- Does the use of Indian mascots have negative consequences, or are they harmless graphics that honor Native Americans?
- How does Rowdy disguise his pain?
8. How to Fight Monsters (54-65)
- Why is Junior deemed to have betrayed his tribe?
- Describe the cartoon on page 57. What does this symbolize about Junior’s insecurities?
- How does the confusion over Junior’s names demonstrate his change in culture?
- How do the students react to Junior at Reardan?
- Alexie uses a racial slur (the “n” word) and strong language (the “f” word) in a joke on page 64. He repeated the words in a talk at an Illinois high school, and some students walked out. Alexie apologized to anyone he had offended but stood by his use of the words in his novel “because that was what was said. And to blunt the hatred of that insult blunts the incredible obstacles my character had to face,” a newspaper reported (Jenco). Do you agree with Alexie that in order to make his point, he had to use words that would offend some people? How do these words relate to the rest of the novel?
- How does the fight illustrate the differences in social codes?
- “Maybe I was telling the world I was no longer a moving target,” Junior says after he bloodies Roger’s nose (65). How is this a significant moment for Junior?
Jenco, Melissa. “Author Defends Using Slur, but Apologizes to
Students.” Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, IL 6 Oct.
2007. Web. 12 Aug. 2014.
9. Grandmother Gives Me Some Advice (66-73)
- Junior begins this chapter by reflecting on his fight with Roger in this way: “I went home that night completely confused. And terrified” (67). In the prior chapter, Junior lists the 11 unwritten rules of fistfights for his tribe, and after he hits Roger—who refuses to hit him back—a confused Junior demands to know, “What are the rules?” at Reardan for fights. The idea of being caught between two “tribes” and not knowing the unwritten rules is a central theme of this story. List the “tribes” that you belong to—at Redwood and outside of school. A “tribe” can include members of the same team, a group of friends who have known each other since middle school, friends from your neighborhood, people who like the same things as you (for example, music, clothes, gaming, anime, snowboarding, etc.), or any other way people self-identify in the same way, such as gender, religion, race, income level, etc.). Explain how the unwritten rules of one of your tribes differs from another and how you handle those differences.
- The idea that Junior gets Roger to pay him respect by punching him in the face may suit our ideal of the rewards that come from standing up to a bully, but do you think Roger’s response is realistic?
- Why does Penelope mock Junior when he says hello to her at school the next day? Presumably, she—like all the other students—knows that Junior stood up to Roger. Why isn’t she impressed by this?
10. Halloween (77-81)
- The focus of this chapter, which comes right after the chapter about Junior’s failed crush on a girl from his tribe, is Junior’s attempt to establish a connection with Penelope. Why do you suppose the author chose to make Penelope the focal point of Junior’s romantic interest in this story, and not Dawn?
- Being spit on by members of this own tribe hurts Junior more than being kicked and robbed. Why? What does it signify?
- Is there any symbolic significance to the fact that his assailants all wear Frankenstein masks? Consider the many other options that Alexie had for Halloween masks; for example, superheroes, movie characters, vampires, etc.
11. Slouching Toward Thanksgiving (82-98)
- Junior’s loneliness is offset by a discovery that increases his confidence. What does he discover and why is this discovery such a surprise to him?
- What happens when Junior speaks up in Mr. Dodge’s class?
- Write about a time when you wanted to speak up because you thought a teacher was wrong about something. Did you speak up, or decide not to? Why or why not?
- Examine the cartoon of Junior’s journey to school on page 88. Contrast this to how you normally get to school. How might your experience at Redwood High School be different if you were unsure whether or not you would be able to get to school and home most days?
- What does Mary do and what effect does it have on Junior? Does Junior respect her reasons, or does he think she’s still being random?
- According to Gordy, how many times do you have to read a book before you know it, and what does each reading accomplish?
- What do Junior and Gordy have in common? How is Junior’s attempt to establish a friendship with Gordy complicated by the homophobic culture that dominates Reardan High?
- Up to this point in the story, Junior views his differences from others as a disadvantage. How does his conversation with Gordy begin to suggest to Junior the idea that being a “freak” has its advantages?
12. My Sister Sends Me an E-mail (99-100)
- Does Mary’s email suggest that life for Indians on the Flathead Rez is mostly the same as on Junior’s Rez, or are things different for Indians depending on where they live?
13. Thanksgiving (101-103)
- Why does Junior think of Rowdy at Thanksgiving time?
- Describe the cartoon Junior draws. Why is Rowdy’s respect still so important to Junior?
- How does Rowdy’s father regard the cartoon? Is this type of reaction typical in today’s society? How could the fear of being considered ‘gay’ limit male interactions?
14. Hunger Pains (104-113)
- How are Penelope and Junior using each other?
- How does Junior learn that addictive and compulsive behaviors, including being in denial, cut across barriers of race and income?
15. Rowdy Gives Me Advice About Love (114-117)
- Why does Junior refer to how “white” Penelope is? What is the effect of this?
- “White girls are privileged. They’re damsels in distress” (116). What does this mean and how does it connect to the way that Rowdy and Gordy both respond when Junior asks for advice about Penelope?
16. Dance, Dance, Dance (118-129)
- Why is the novel called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian?
- Examine the cartoon on page 120. Analyze each of the pictures. Why do you think Alexie presents the information in this way?
- How do Penelope and Roger react to Junior’s admission that he is poor?
- What does Junior learn by the end of the chapter?
17. Don’t Trust Your Computer (130-132)
- What does Junior email Rowdy and how does he reply? Why does this make Junior laugh?
- What does Gordy say about the role of the tribe? How is this applicable to Junior?
18. My Sister Sends Me a Letter (133-134)
- What does Junior think of Mary’s “gorgeous new place”?
19. Reindeer Games (135-149)
- Why does Junior try out for the basketball team?
- What happens at try-outs? Why does Junior get in?
- Why does Junior say “it was like something out of Shakespeare” (142) when he discovers their first game is against Wellpinit?
- What happens when Junior enters the gym? How does he react? Why?
20. And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (150-151)
- Merriam-Webster defines a paradox as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.” Find the paradox Junior uses to describe his father’s Christmas gift to him, and explain how this paradox symbolizes how Junior feels about his dad.
21. Red Versus White (152-158)
- What good things about his culture does Junior realize?
- Using another paradox, Junior says his white friends’ fathers are good at “hiding in plain sight.” What shortcoming of white family culture is he asserting here?
- What values and lessons does Junior’s grandmother teach him, by her example, both in life and in death?
22. Wake (159-167)
- What attitude toward people like Billionaire Ted does Junior reveal in the way he retells the story of Ted’s visit to the Spokane reservation?
- “When it comes to death, we know that laughter and tears are pretty much the same thing,” Junior comments after his grandmother’s wake (166). What does this paradoxical reflection show about Junior’s community?
23. Valentine Heart (168-178)
- “We all have to find our own way to say good-bye,” Junior observes after his grandmother’s death, which precedes his “uncle” Eugene’s murder by less than one month. Compare and contrast how Junior “says goodbye” to these two beloved figures with the ways his father, mother, and sister say their goodbyes. (note: you will have to examine the previous chapter as well as this one to reply to this question).
- What do Junior’s cartoons (170, 171, and 172) reveal about his emotions?
- In this chapter Junior makes a discovery that lifts his spirits. What does he discover, and why is it so significant to him?
24. In Like a Lion (179-196)
- How does Junior explain his improvement in basketball?
- What do the cartoon on page 182 and the simile he uses to describe himself demonstrate about Junior’s self-identity at this point in the novel?
- How, according to Junior, is the game “like watching dogfighting” for the write spectators?
- Junior tells the sportscaster, “I’m never going to quit living life this hard” (186). What does he mean by this statement?
- What analogy does Junior use on page 195 to explain why he cries even though his team wins the game against the team from the reservation?
25. Rowdy and I Have a Long and Serious Discussion about Basketball (197-198)
- Once again in this chapter Alexie uses a slur to make a point. Compare this one to others he has used in the novel so far. Is this slur needed to make the characters sound authentic, or should he avoid this type of language in his novels because it may offend some readers?
26. Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses (199-213)
- According to Junior, what’s the biggest difference between whites and Indians?
- How does Mary die?
- How does Junior react to Mary’s death? Why does he react in this way?
- Why does Junior feel responsible in some way for Mary’s death?
- How does Junior’s decision to attend school the day after Mary’s funeral illustrate his differences from others on the reservation?
- How do the rhetorical questions on page 213 convey the depth of Junior’s grief?
27. Remembering (215-218)
- At what realizations does Junior arrive?
- To what tribes does Junior belong? How does this help him feel better?
28. Talking About Turtles (219-230)
- Junior describes his reservation as “located approximately one million miles north of Important and two billion miles west of Happy.” Yet when he and Rowdy look down from almost the top of an immense pine, he says, “We could see our entire world. And our entire world, at that moment, was green and golden and perfect” (226). Why does Junior have such mixed feelings about the reservation?
- Why does Rowdy compare Junior to a nomad?
- “We didn’t keep score” (230). What does the final line signify?
- Does Rowdy change during the novel? If so, how?
- What character has the biggest impact on Junior’s life during this novel?
|Due By (Pacific Time)
||10/14/2014 05:00 pm