The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations for the text follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph); for art and illustrations: (Chapter.Illustration)
"Well, life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community."
Can you believe there is a kid who talks like that? Like he's already a college professor impressed with the sound of his own voice?
"Gordy," I said. "I don't understand what you're trying to say to me."
"Well, in the early days of humans, the community was our only protection against predators, and against starvation. We survived because we trusted one another."
"So, back in the day, weird people threatened the strength of the tribe. If you weren't good for making food, shelter or babies, then you were tossed out on your own."
"But we're not primitive like that anymore."
"Oh, yes, we are. Weird people still get banished."
"You mean weird people like me," I said.
"And me," Gordy said.
"All right, then," I said. "So we have a tribe of two." (18.20-18.30)
Gordy explains to Arnold the push and pull between an individual and their community – and why Arnold, ever the individual, has been made the outcast of his society. Gordy too, we discover, is a kind of outcast. But why? What do you think of Gordy and Arnold's decision to form their own tribe?
"And I have to be honest, guys," Coach said. "We can't beat these guys with our talent. We just aren't good enough. But I think we have bigger hearts. And I think we have a secret weapon."
I wondered if Coach had maybe hired some Mafia dude to take out Rowdy.
"We have Arnold Spirit," Coach said. (25.117-25.119)
Coach's speech to Arnold, and his ongoing encouragement of Arnold's mad basketball skills, illustrates the awesome power of being believed in – and being told that "you can do it" (25.141). How does Coach's positive outlook radically change Arnold's basketball playing? How does Coach's enthusiasm change who Arnold is – and how he sees himself?
I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms.
And to the tribe of cartoonists.
And to the tribe of chronic masturbators.
And the tribe of teenage boys.
And the tribe of small-town kids.
And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners.
And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.
And the tribe of poverty.
And the tribe of funeral goers.
And the tribe of beloved sons.
And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.
It was a huge realization.
And that's when I knew that I was going to be okay. (29.31-29.43)
Alright everyone, it's time for a mega-huge epiphany. Arnold is done with seeing himself as just one of two people: half-Indian Junior or half-white Arnold. He refuses to be defined solely by his race or ethnicity anymore. Instead, Arnold realizes that he belongs to many different groups, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with being Indian or being white. This new kind of identity that Arnold embraces is multi-tribal, meaning that Arnold now realizes the he belongs to about a million different tribes. What are some of the tribes you belong to?