The Theme Of Transition From Childhood To Adulthood In Sherman Alexi's Novel

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The True Diary of a Part Time Indian deals with teenage experiences through a developmental journey as they transition from childhood to adulthood, and in doing so are faced with many developmental milestones. Having poverty, individual ambitions, and racism in which occur during this time in these kids’ lives who learn to value one’s self and identity as a priority. It has come to a concern for many parents in which their kids are being taught this story which references to masturbation, use of illicit materials, promotion of pornography and experiencing an awakening of sexual maturity. Sherman Alexi, the author of the book, however, challenges these values and how that adds to the story with a focus on self-discovery and independence.

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It should be noted that Junior grew up on the reservation side, including everyone around him also grew up very poor, but Junior is used to it. When Junior decides to better his future he decides to move schools, once he starts attending Reardan he starts to become more aware that he is from a different social class than the students at Reardan. At this point, Junior is very well used to learning and studying from 35-year-old textbooks whereas students at Reardan High have grown up to the endless access to having resources and opportunities. As Junior attends this school, he struggles with letting his new friends know of his family’s poverty, meanwhile, Junior’s poverty is just as foreign to his wealthy classmates. When Penelope finds out that Junior is poor, she cries for him, even Roger lends him money and starts giving rides to and from school “he opened his wallet and handed me forty bucks. Holy, holy. What kind of kid can just hand over forty bucks like that?” (Alexie,105). Junior believes that his classmates will treat him differently if they find out that he is poor, however much to juniors surprise, his classmates turn out to be much more understanding. By this act from his friends, Junior starts to realize then that the first step to being understood is only by being truthful about his living circumstances, and not hiding in shame.

At the beginning of the novel, Junior describes how living on the reservation makes Indians lose hope. He uses his parents as examples of Indians who did not follow their dreams because nobody ever believed in them enough to support their ambitions. A desire to break out of this cycle of poverty and destitution motivates Junior to transfer to Reardan. Once at his new school, Junior immediately notices that his new classmates have endless hope for the future. Though he wrestles with the feeling that he has betrayed his tribe by attending Reardan, Junior is also realistic about the fact that staying on the reservation would not offer him any opportunities for advancement. Despite the challenges that Junior’s parents face, he continually affirms that they are loving and supportive. When Junior decides to go to Reardan, his parents fully encourage his ambitions and do whatever they can to scrape together money to support him, “going to Reardan is truly a strange idea. But it isn’t weird that my parents so quickly agreed with my plans. They want a better life for my sister and me.” (Alexie,40). During Reardan’s re-match basketball game against Wellpinit, Junior knows that his father will be seated in his usual place. On the flip side, Junior learns that many of his wealthy new Reardan friends do not have such involved or caring parents. Therefore, Alexie makes the point that love and unity enable survival even in times of hardship.

Junior experiences racism on the reservation and at Reardan. At Reardan, he is surrounded by white classmates and has to tolerate racist jokes and nicknames, even from his teachers and Penelope’s father, who warns Junior against impregnating Penelope. Then, when Junior is on the reservation, he observes the effect that generations of systematic and historical racism have had on the other members of the Coeur d’Alene tribe. He mentions several times that discrimination has broken down Indians’ sense of self-worth to the point where they have begun to believe that they deserve to be treated as second-class citizens. As Junior faces bullying and alienation both on the rez and at Reardan, he always has the choice of letting his misery defeat him or trying to overcome it. His survival tactic, however, is to use humor to offset life’s most difficult challenges. Junior often describes his tormentors in a sarcastic and flippant tone; when the Wellpinit supporters turn their backs on Junior and the Reardan team. He also draws comics to display his struggles humorously, poking fun at the fact that he rarely has a way to get to school and can’t figure out how to answer the question, ‘are you poor?’ Many parents believe that schools should ban this book from being taught to their kids. Explaining that they are “encouraging” kids to act on violence and racism is okay. However, Western Kentucky University Nick Wartz, a sophomore student at the university is very passionate on letting readers, viewers, and parents know that banning books is unnecessary and uncalled for or more likely “the banning of books as an attempt to unrightfully disguise the past by means of censorship and avoidance. That’s part of history, there’s no sense in banning a part of history.” (Wartz). This article fully supports having all books are acceptable and should not be banned or kept from any reader. It also states there are many people who rather quickly say whether a book should be banned or not even before knowing the knowledge behind the story because people are afraid of what knowledge can do. This article keeps supporting the idea that every person has the right to express themselves so why can’t books do the same.

Therefore, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian helps kids learn the values of a development journey through their experiences as they transition from a child to an adult. The values of living through poverty, individual ambitions, and racism will learn to value one self’s identity and as a priority.

16 December 2021

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