Review Of Junior's Life Path In Sherman Alexi's Novel

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 In the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” written by Sherman Alexie, self-confidence of a teenage boy named Junior, his cultural awareness, and sports life is immensely influenced by the shift in schools. Moving from the Indian Reservation (the “rez”) to a mainstream school in a town called Reardan. Junior endures racial profiling, however, his education enhances and through that he finds he is truly intelligent. Being the only minority at an all-white school Junior struggles with his cultural identity, though later Junior along with members of the school embraces his differences. The introduction of basketball into Junior’s Reardan experience allows him to truly shine, but, he also faces immense criticism from his tribe.

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Junior’s self-confidence is on a roller coaster ride in his first weeks at the new school. This is when he experiences his intellectual abilities but also racial profiling. Junior leaves the Reservation in hopes for better education and improved opportunities as he tries to break the cycle of alcoholism, hopelessness, and poverty that is an imposing factor on each Indian that lives within the rez. The rigorous education that Junior receives at Reardan sets him up for his successful future. It is there that he finds his talent within academics. Junior implies this when saying, “I was smarter than most of those white kids…not just smart for an Indian, Okay? I was smart period.” (83-84) Abandoning the Reservation in desire for an improved future was well worth it in the aspect of education. With better resources and supplies along with the other students, Junior finds that he is being pushed but that he can also excel. Through the switch in schools, Junior does find a better education but on his first day of school, he is met with discrimination. He endures this abuse from not only students but also teachers and even the school’s mascot hint the idea. On his first day of school, he is harassed with comments that you would not even believe came out of a teenager’s mouth. A popular boy at the school mocks Junior’s ethnicity by questioning, “Did you know that Indians are living proof that niggers fuck buffalo?” (64) The town of Reardan is not accustomed to the presence of Native Americans within their community and act unacceptably irrational to Junior. Which craters his self-confidence levels leaving him to question why he left his home.

Adolescence is an important time in one’s life where they recognize, grow and come to terms with one’s own sense of self. Junior is not only finding the type of person he is but also struggles with his cultural identity through transferring schools. Junior is the only Indian kid at Reardan and in the beginning, the school along with the community are not accustomed to his ways and on the contrary, Junior is not used to their ways of life. He narrates “I felt like somebody had shoved me into a rocket ship and blasted me to a new planet. I was a freaky alien and there was absolutely no way to get home.” (66). This feeling is most prominent in what Junior calls “the weirdest fistfight if my life”. After being verbally abused by a group of boys at Reardan Junior recalls the Spokane Indian Rules of Fisticuffs ready for a fight. He throws the first punch expecting for one to be thrown right back. Surprisingly the boys walk-off, Junior stands there appalled. That is when he begins to recognize how different the two cultures are. Being the only minority at Reardan has positive effects as well, Junior begins to realize this towards the end of the book. “I looked and talked and dreamed and walked differently than everybody else…I was an exciting addition to the Reardan gene pool.” (110-111), Junior implies. As Junior’s identity evolves overtime he not only develops who he is as a person but learns to accept and truly embrace his cultural differences.

The influence that sports had on Junior impacted so many different aspects of his life in ways he would have never imagined. Basketball allowed Junior to, for the first time in his life, shine but also when his tribe expressed their anger for his betrayal. Throughout his life Junior was never great at anything, he never stood out, especially not in sports. So when he got to Reardan he wasn’t expecting that to change. Junior notes “Back on the rez, I was a decent player, but something magical happened to me when I went to Reardan.”(180) Junior doubted himself even saying “I figured I wasn’t good enough to make even the c-team squad”(135) and with this newfound talent so many other positive effects followed. Junior built positive relationships with not only his teammates but also his coach, basketball also helped in some way or another mend the broken friendship that he had with Rowdy and lastly, improved his self-confidence. There is however a downside to everything. The harassment that Junior received from his own tribe was unbearable. As he walked into the gym for his first game against Wellpoint he recalls “The rez basketball fan were chanting, Ar-nold sucks! Ar-nold sucks!” (143) Junior had to, not only fit into a school where he wasn’t accepted but deal with the criticism of his whole tribe. The only way to rightfully justify this the perhaps the reason they were spitting, booing, and throwing metal coins at him was that they were jealous. Jealous that Junior was getting out, that he was making a difference and had the bravery to change.

Junior’s will to chase after his dreams in his switch from the Reservation school to the all-white Reardan influenced his life in a number of ways. The three aspects of his life that were most affected include his cultural awareness, athletic identity, and his self-confidence. Through this shift, both positive and negative factors contributed to his evolution not only as a person but as a student, a friend, a teammate, and a Spokane Indian.  

16 December 2021

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