The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Theme of Race
Race is a pretty huge deal for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Why? Because it gives Arnold Spirit, Jr. a good deal of trouble in his search for self. Arnold feel like he's only half an Indian – or as he says a "part-time Indian" – once he transfers to the white school of Reardan. He then gets split into two: Junior on the Indian reservation and Arnold in his white high school. This all suggests that one's racial or ethnic identity can change depending on place or social setting.
Questions About Race
- How are being a Native American and being poor related in Junior's mind?
- What does it mean to "kill the Indian to save the child" (5.40)?
- Why do Junior's parents say that white people have the most hope (6.10)?
- Do you think Junior idealizes white people and the culture at his white school (7.34, 22.1)?
- What does Gordy mean when he says "White girls are privileged" (16.26)?
- What does it mean to be a part-time Indian?
- How can one's racial identity change? What does it mean to "become" white (18.15)?
Chew on This
As Arnold tells us, being an Indian also means being poor. Race and class are deeply connected.
Arnold sees himself as half-Indian and half-white. This suggests that racial identity can change depending on situation.