The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
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"For Wellpinit and Reardan, my hometowns" (dedication)
Sherman Alexie begins The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian with a dedication to his two hometowns: Wellpinit and Reardan. Like Arnold, Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington and then transferred to the affluent white high school in the town of Reardan nearly 22 miles away. (For more on Wellpinit and Reardan, see our section on "Setting.") Though he was born on the reservation, Alexie identifies both places as his "hometown." Here we are introduced to the idea that home can mean more than one thing and can be in more than one place. One person can have more than one home. What is your hometown? Do you call more than one place home?
My mother and father are drunks, too, but they aren't mean like that. Not at all. They sometimes ignore me. Sometimes they yell at me. But they never, ever, never, ever hit me. I've never even been spanked. Really. I think my mother wants to haul off and give me a slap, but my father won't let it happen.
He doesn't believe in physical punishment; he believes in staring so cold at me that I turn into a ice-covered ice cube with an icy filling.
My house is a safe place, so Rowdy spends most of his time with us. It's like he's a family member, an extra brother and son. (3.21-3.23)
Arnold describes his home life for us: his family is not ideal, but they are, fortunately, not violent or abusive. Though his parents are alcoholics, Arnold still considers his home to be a safe place. How is Arnold's home life different from Rowdy's? Is Rowdy's home a safe place? How does this impact the way Rowdy and Junior act?
"If you stay on this rez," Mr. P said, "they're going to kill you. I'm going to kill you. We're all going to kill you. You can't fight us forever."
"I don't want to fight anybody," I said.
"You've been fighting since you were born," he said. "You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope."
I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply my hope.
"Where is hope?" I asked. "Who has hope?"
"Son," Mr. P said. "You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation." (5.163-5.168)
Mr. P visits Arnold's home after the incident with the geometry book and tells him that, even though the reservation is his home, Arnold must leave the reservation in order to survive. Why must Arnold go somewhere else in order to find hope? What does it mean when home is a place that harms you as much as helps you?