The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Race Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations for the text follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph); for art and illustrations: (Chapter.Illustration)
"Hey Arnold," he said. "I looked up 'in love with a white girl' on Google and found an article about that white girl named Cynthia who disappeared in Mexico last summer. You remember how her face was all over the papers and everybody said it was such a sad thing?"
"I kinda remember," I said.
"Well, this article said that over two hundred Mexican girls have disappeared in the last three years in that same part of the country. And nobody says much about that. And that's racist. The guy who wrote the article says people care more about beautiful white girls than they do about everybody else on the planet. White girls are privileged. They're damsels in distress." (16.24-16.26)
Gordy's Google-searched article discusses the preference given to white women by Western society. As the case of Cynthia illustrates, white women are often more highly valued than Mexican women. Is Arnold privileging white women by pursuing Penelope? Why or why not? What does Gordy think? What does Rowdy think? What do you think?
Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the little white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger.
I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.
It was like being Indian was my job, but it was only a part-time job. And it didn't pay well at all. (17.1-17.3)
Arnold feels as though he's too white for the reservation and too Indian for Reardan. The result is that he feels like a stranger in both places. Why does Arnold's racial identity change depending on where he is?
"I know, I know, but some Indians think you have to act white to make your life better. Some Indians think you become white if you try to make your life better, if you become successful."
"If that were true, then wouldn't all white people be successful?"
Man, Gordy was smart. I wished I could take him to the rez and let him educate Rowdy. Of course, Rowdy would probably punch Gordy until he was brain-dead. Or maybe Rowdy, Gordy, and I could become a superhero trio, fighting for truth, justice and the Native American way. Well, okay, Gordy was white, but anybody can start to act like an Indian if he hangs around us long enough. (18.15-18.17)
Gordy and Arnold discuss how you can become white or become Indian. This suggests that race is not so much something that you are born into (something biologically determined), but a category that can be changed by your behavior. We might say then that, according to the novel, race can be socially constructed.