This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.
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Are you looking for discussion questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian that explore major themes in the book?
These discussion questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will help you launch your discussion about major themes and concepts in the book.
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Discussion Questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
These discussion questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian will help you get the conversation started, and explore important themes.
Examine Your Education and Identity
Start with these discussion questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian that examine education and identity.
- Junior’s excitement about school is ruined when he realizes that his school’s resources are the same today as they were when his parents went there. He feels like his community has given up on him. Think about your own educational experiences and sacrifices you’ve made to achieve your goals.
- After reading about Junior’s first day at the reservation school, do you see any similarities in your own educational background? Can you identify any aspects of your education that you’ve taken for granted? What are they?
- Mr. P tells Junior, “We were supposed to kill the Indian to save the child.” Have you ever felt that you needed to hide, subdue, or “kill” parts of your culture or identity to get ahead in the world or fit in somewhere? What was the situation, and what were the consequences? If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
We’re all members of multiple cultures. For example, you may belong to a family culture, school culture, regional culture, religious culture, and ethnic culture. Think about how your loyalty to these various cultures has affected how you view the world and the decisions you’ve made.
- Why do the people on the reservation consider Junior a traitor
- How could you apply these lessons to future situations in which you feel like parts of your culture are holding you back?
Examine the Power of Expectations
Next, consider these discussion questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian that discuss the power of expectations.
- Junior believes that one of the most powerful sentences in the world is “You can do it.”
- Why do you think Junior plays basketball better at Reardan than he did on the reservation
- Think of a time when someone’s expectations of you (high or low, positive or negative) affected your performance. What were the expectations? How did they affect you?
- Who can you turn to in the future to set the bar high for you? If negative expectations hurt your performance in the past, what’s something you could do in the future to counter these negative expectations?
Examine Your Privilege
In these discussion questions for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, examine your privilege.
- After living most of his life as a “David,” an underdog, Junior realizes that at Reardan, he’s playing for Goliath, the side with all the advantages. He’s suddenly ashamed of his privilege.
- What are your privileges? Which ones do you tend to take for grante
- Should people who have a lot of advantages in a sport, or in life in general, feel ashamed of their privilege? Why or why not? If yes, what should they do about it?
Discussion Questions for The Absolutely True Diary About Theme
Think about the theme of identity in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
- What was the most important thing Junior learned by the end of his first year at Reardan?
- Junior often feels like he’s two different people, and not fully either of them—he’s a part-time white student and a part-time Indian. Have there been times in your life when you felt different parts of your identity conflicting? What parts of your identity were those? How did they conflict
- When feelings of conflicting identities arise in the future, what lessons can you apply from Junior’s epiphany that he is a member of many tribes (the basketball tribe, the cartoonist tribe, and so on)?
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian summary:
- How Junior gets split between two worlds when he goes to a mostly white school
- How Junior overcomes being an outsider to being part of welcoming social circles
- The tragedies of alcoholism and poverty that leave Junior with renewed strength