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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

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Quote #1

The Spokane Tribe holds their annual powwow celebration over the Labor Day weekend. This was the 127th annual one, and there would be singing, war dancing, gambling, storytelling, laughter, fry bread, hamburgers, hot dogs, arts and crafts, and plenty of alcoholic brawling.

I wanted no part of it.

Oh, the dancing and singing are great. Beautiful, in fact, but I'm afraid of all the Indians who aren't dancers and singers. Those rhythmless, talentless, tuneless Indians are most likely going to get drunk and beat the shit out of any available losers.

And I'm always the most available loser. (3.26-3.29)

While the powwow sounds like total fun to us, Arnold wants nothing to do with it. Why? Because he wouldn't be included in the celebration. As the resident outcast, he would become the powwow punching bag. Why does he feel like such an outcast? What, then, does the powwow mean to Arnold?

Quote #2

Indian families stick together like Gorilla Glue, the strongest adhesive in the world. My mother and father both lived within two miles of where they were born, and my grandmother lived one mile from where she was born. Ever since the Spokane Indian Reservation was founded back in 1881, nobody in my family had ever lived anywhere else. We Spirits stay in one place. We are absolutely tribal. For good or bad, we don't leave one another. And now, my mother and father had lost two kids to the outside world. (12.85)

Arnold tells us that his family has never, ever left the reservation. They have always been there – at least since 1881. But why does his family stay in one place? Do you think this would make it hard for Arnold to leave?

Quote #3

We decide to order room service, to have the food delivered to our room, and guess what they had on the menu? Indian fry bread! Yep. For five dollars, you could get fry bread. Crazy! So I ordered up two pieces. I didn't think it would be any good, especially not as good as grandma's. But let me tell you. It was great. Almost as good as grandma's. And they had the fry bread on this fancy plate and so I ate it with this fancy fork and knife. And I just kept imagining there was some Flathead Indian grandma in the kitchen, just making fry bread for all the room service people. (13.1)

Mary describes her experience eating fry bread at a restaurant in an email to Arnold. Why is it significant that Mary can still get fry bread even though she's not on the Spokane Reservation?

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