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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Summary


Here you will find a The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian summary (Sherman Alexie's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Summary Overview

The protagonist, Arnold Spirit Jr. - known as Junior - narrates his life from his Spokane Reservation home, where he was born with too much cerebral spinal fluid. Despite this condition causing a lisp, stutter, and seizures, he fights through and lives, despite being bullied by others on the "rez." Junior finds solace in his best friend Rowdy, his artwork, and dreams of a better life beyond the reservation, although Rowdy's violent streak and his alcoholic parents pose additional challenges. His sister, Mary, spends her time isolated in the basement, which worries him. An incident involving an outdated textbook leads to Junior's suspension from his school, Wellpinit High. His teacher, Mr. P, visits him at home, apologizing and advising him to leave the reservation for better opportunities. Junior decides to heed his advice and enrolls in an all-white school, Reardan, located twenty-two miles away. His transition is challenging, and his old friends, including Rowdy, feel betrayed. However, he gains new friends and even a girlfriend, Penelope, and manages to earn respect through his actions. Meanwhile, his sister, Mary, marries a poker player and moves away without a farewell. The last part of Junior's high school life is marked by a mixture of successes and tragedies. Junior makes it onto the Reardan basketball team, but his return to Wellpinit results in hostility and physical harm. Tragedies also strike; his grandmother is killed by a drunk driver, a family friend is shot over a wine dispute, and he loses his sister in a fire. Despite these hardships, Junior completes the school year with a decent report card and vows never to drink. The story concludes with Rowdy visiting Junior, and the two friends playing basketball in the summer heat, indicating hope for healing and reconciliation.

chapter 1

Born with an excess of fluid, known as "water," in his brain, Junior undergoes a risky surgery in his infancy. Expected to leave him brain dead, the procedure instead results in minor complications. Growing up, he develops an unusual dental layout, having 42 teeth instead of the typical 32. Learning that the Indian Health Services only performs major dental procedures once a year, Junior endures the extraction of all his extra teeth in a single day. His dentist, who wrongly believes that Native Americans only feel half as much pain as whites, provides inadequate anesthesia. Junior also suffers from unique eye issues, being nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. His physical appearance, from his skinny body to his oversized hands and feet, and his singular glasses frames provided by the Indian Health Service, make him the target of mockery. His large head, in particular, draws ridicule. The lingering effects of his brain damage are seizures, which prevent his bruised brain from fully healing. He also struggles with a stutter and a lisp, which result in further bullying from the other children on the reservation, or "rez." This leads to his membership in the cheekily-named “Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club.” Despite the hardships, Junior finds solace in drawing cartoons. He sketches himself, his friends, and his family, hoping it may offer a means to wealth and fame. Ultimately, he aspires to one day escape the life of the rez.

chapter 2

Despite their poverty, Junior is hopeful that his parents will provide a meal, like a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, to alleviate his hunger. However, he shares that the hardest part about being poor isn't the hunger, but the lack of resources, as illustrated by the ordeal of his dog and "best friend," Oscar. When Oscar falls ill, Junior understands the stark reality that his family can't afford a vet and he is powerless to find a job to help. He highlights the wasted potential of his parents; his mother could have been a college professor and his father, a Jazz musician, with better chances. A heart-wrenching decision is made when his father, after a discussion with Junior's mother, takes Oscar outside with his rifle, visibly upset. Hearing the gunshot as he flees, Junior bitterly notes the trivial cost of the bullet.

chapter 3

Overwhelmed with grief after Oscar's death, Junior is comforted by Rowdy, his best friend, who assures him that he would not be missed if he disappeared. Rowdy suffers from his alcoholic father's beatings, unlike Junior, whose parents, despite being alcoholics, never harm him. Junior doesn't want to attend the 127th Spokane Reservation powwow, fearing violence, but Rowdy convinces him to go, promising to shield him. Junior mentions that although they share the same birthday, he was born with physical challenges and Rowdy was born angry. At the Powwow, Rowdy's fall into a minivan instigates laughter from Junior. This annoys Rowdy, who shoves Junior and takes his frustration out on the minivan. Junior, hoping to escape, ends up at the Andruss triplets’ camp. The triplets, all in their 30s, harass Junior and even knee him in the groin. Revengeful against the triplets who hurt Junior, Rowdy waits until they are drunk and unconscious at 3 AM, then sneaks into their tent to shave their eyebrows and cut their braids. He pins the blame on the west coast Makah Indians. “You can’t trust them whale hunters,” he quips, successfully escaping any suspicions. But Rowdy is not solely violent; he shares Junior's love for comic books and admires Junior's art. Junior considers Rowdy more important than his own family, estimating that they have spent a total of 40,880 hours together. He confides to the reader that he and Rowdy are inseparable.

chapter 4

Junior is passionate about geometry, more so than his habit of secret self-gratification with adult magazines. Though he used to sleep in the closet due to his fascination for right angles, he stopped after his sister, Mary's, comment. Despite Mary's habit of idling away in the basement, Junior maintains a deep affection for her. With anticipation and some jitters, Junior is eager to join the high school basketball team. On his first day at school, the geometry teacher, Mr. P, an absent-minded, petite, Caucasian man, walks in with a box of old geometry textbooks. Junior jokingly imagines Mr. P as a Sicilian mobster in hiding, when in reality he is merely a solitary white man who finds solace in the company of more lonesome Native Americans. During his initial high school geometry lesson, Junior receives his textbook from Mr. P only to discover it was signed by his mother, Agnes Adams, over three decades ago. Infuriated at the outdated teaching resources, Junior impulsively hurls the book at Mr. P's face.

chapter 5

Junior, after being suspended for assaulting Mr. P, is visited by him at his home. The teacher, seeking to converse with Junior, finds himself engaged in a deep and revealing conversation. Junior is unsure why he reacted violently towards Mr. P. The educator, remorseful, admits to his past of physically punishing Native American pupils and apologizes to Junior. He praises Junior's intelligence, placing him second only to his sister, Mary. He surprises Junior by telling him that Mary had ambitions of becoming a romance writer but relinquished her dreams. Mr. P commends Junior as the brightest student in the school and urges him not to surrender his aspirations like Mary did. He cautions Junior about his best friend Rowdy, stating Rowdy has already given in. The teacher insists that Junior's only chance of success lies in leaving the reservation for good. Following his impassioned plea, Mr. P breaks down, marking the first time Junior has witnessed a sober adult weep.

chapter 6

After Mr. P's departure, Junior ponders on his existence. When his parents return, he questions them about who possesses the most hope. They simultaneously respond with "white people." He then expresses his desire to switch schools. They initially think he's referring to another reservation school, but he clarifies that he wants to attend Reardan, an affluent public school, populated by white farm kids, located at a distance of 22 miles from their reservation. He plans to join the very next day. He acknowledges that despite his parents' alcoholism, they yearn for a brighter future for him and his sister, Mary. His father cautions about the difficulties in commuting to Reardan, and his mother warns him about the resentment he might face from his peers on the reservation. However, they back his decision and promise to assist him.

chapter 7

Junior informs Rowdy at the Wellpinit school playground that he's transferring to Reardan, but Rowdy thinks he's joking and grows angry. Junior encourages Rowdy to join him, yet Rowdy despises Reardan due to their unbeatable sports teams. Junior had led their team against Reardan in the Academic Bowl and had been the only one to answer correctly that Charles Dickens was the author of A Tale of Two Cities. However, they still lost heavily, with Junior admitting that the Reardan kids were superior, they “were the best of times.” When Rowdy realizes Junior is serious about the transfer, he becomes upset and shoves Junior away. Despite this, Junior insists Rowdy join him and tries to comfort him, however, Rowdy responds with hostility and punches Junior. Lying on the ground, Junior recognizes that Rowdy has turned into his greatest adversary.

chapter 8

Following his brawl with Rowdy, Junior journeys the 22 miles to Reardan with his father. His dad encourages him not to view the white students as superior, but Junior disagrees. His dad labels him a warrior. As he waits outside the school, the white students survey his injuries. The school's mascot is an indigenous person and there's a caricature contrasting a white student's and a Native American student's appearance. The white student is shown with a watch, khakis, and a backpack while the Native American carries books in a garbage bag and wears discounted jeans. In Mr. Grant's homeroom, a blond girl named Penelope inquires about his name, causing laughter when Junior reveals there are 17 others named Junior on the reservation. When Mr. Grant calls his actual name, Arnold Spirit, Penelope is puzzled. Junior clarifies he answers to both names, feeling like two individuals in one. He shares with Penelope that he's from the reservation. Post his chat with Penelope, Junior becomes silent for six days. On the seventh day, he has an unusual fight. He shares the 11 unsaid rules of fighting in the reservation. Insults directed towards you, your family, or perceived insults, necessitate a fight. The larger white boys taunt Junior with names like "Chief," "Tonto," and "Squaw Boy." When Roger, the largest of them all, hurls a distasteful racial slur, Junior retaliates by punching him. Roger and the others are shocked, watching blood pour from Roger's nose. Junior challenges Roger to a post-school fight, but Roger is clueless. He questions the rules, to which Roger can only respond, "What rules?"

chapter 9

With a head full of confusion, Junior seeks advice from his grandmother about Roger's strange behavior. In her wisdom, she suggests Roger now holds respect for Junior. The following day, the lack of fuel in their car forces Junior to walk to school. On his way, he runs into Eugene, his father's closest friend, who offers him a lift on his motorcycle. Arriving at Reardan together, Eugene — adorned with long braids — expresses his astonishment at the school's predominantly white student body. He commends Junior for attending the school, confessing he wouldn't have the courage to do so himself. Upon seeing them, Roger greets Junior and admires Eugene's motorcycle before departing. Encountering Penelope afterward, Junior is initially met with feigned ignorance. However, after reminding her of his name, Penelope acknowledges him, mockingly referring to him as the boy who can't decide on his name. Junior reflects that while he may have won the king's respect, the queen remains unimpressed.

chapter 10

Junior recalls his adolescent years when he developed feelings for a Native American girl, Dawn, a superb traditional powwow dancer renowned for her beautiful braids. During a sleepover at Junior's place, he confides in Rowdy about his love for Dawn. However, Rowdy dismisses Junior's feelings, stating that Dawn is indifferent towards him. This harsh reality brings Junior to tears. Despite chiding Junior for his tears, Rowdy doesn't spill his secret.

chapter 11

For Halloween, Junior and Penelope both dress up as homeless people. Penelope explains her costume choice as a way to collect spare change for the homeless instead of candy. Junior agrees with her idea and decides to join her initiative, explaining his costume as a protest against the mistreatment of homeless Native Americans. However, when Junior collects change on the reservation, he is attacked by three masked men who take his money and candy and leave him bruised. He begins to speculate whether one of the attackers was his friend Rowdy. The following day, Junior discloses the incident to Penelope and shows her his injuries. Moved by his story, Penelope decides to include both their names on her donation. Junior finds helping others to be a rewarding experience.

chapter 12

Junior's subsequent weeks were marked by profound loneliness. Despite feeling like a true Native American on the reservation, this identity seemed to fade as he journeyed to Reardan. With his intelligence surpassing most students at Reardan, he felt out of place. This was evident when he corrected his geology teacher, Mr. Dodge, about the nature of petrified wood. Despite initial laughter from the class, Gordy, the class whiz, confirmed Junior was correct. Though Junior thanked Gordy for his support, he was told that Gordy was merely defending science. Each day, Junior would ride the bus to the edge of the reservation, where he was supposed to be picked up by his father, but often ended up walking home. Sometimes, he covered the entire 22-mile distance on foot, rarely being given a lift. Returning home one day, Junior found his mother in tears because his sister, Mary, had eloped and moved to Montana. He speculated that she felt embarrassed living in the basement for seven years after he started school in Reardan. Mary's bold decision left him admiring her courage and he joked that even white folks feared Montana's Native Americans. This admiration motivated him to approach Gordy for friendship. After clearing a misunderstanding regarding his sexual preference, they began studying together. Gordy helped Junior understand literature more deeply, even claiming books should elicit a metaphorical boner. He encouraged Junior's cartoon drawing and helped him appreciate literature. Junior realized he was seen as an oddity at Wellpinit for his love for books, but in Reardan, he was embraced as a happy oddball.

chapter 13

The electronic message Mary sent is timestamped November 16th, 2006. She expresses her delight about her new life in Montana, including her recent horse riding experience. She is also on the lookout for employment. She finds the Montana reservation peculiar as there are towns with more Caucasians than Native Americans, and claims there was even an attempt from a white town to detach from the reservation. She recounts her hotel stay by Flathead Lake during their honeymoon, where she ordered traditional Native American fry bread from room service. Mary expresses her contentment with her husband, her new life, the state of Montana, and Junior.

chapter 14

Despite the lack of snow, Junior and his family enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving feast. Junior questions why Native Americans observe the holiday, wondering what they have to be grateful for. His father humorously suggests they should be thankful not all of them were exterminated by the whites, leading to a shared laughter between father and son. Post-dinner, Junior feels the absence of his friend, Rowdy. He sketches a cartoon of them as superheroes, exchanging a fist bump, and delivers it to Rowdy's home. When he learns that Rowdy is out, he leaves the cartoon with Rowdy's father despite his remark that it’s “a little gay.” As Junior departs, he spots Rowdy from a distance, holding the sketch. Rowdy responds with a rude gesture, yet refrains from destroying the cartoon.

chapter 15

Junior departs from Mr. Sheridan's lesson for a restroom break. In the process, he catches the sound of a girl violently retching in the neighboring bathroom. After finishing up, he knocks on the girls' bathroom door, despite being told to leave. The girl eventually emerges – it's Penelope. Junior labels her as anorexic, but she corrects him, stating she's bulimic. Her condition reminds Junior of his father, prompting him to advise Penelope not to surrender. Penelope breaks down in tears, and this emotional interaction leads to them becoming a sort of couple, akin to "friends with potential." After some weeks, Penelope's father, Earl, confronts Junior outside the school, warning him to stay away from his daughter. He accuses Penelope of dating Junior just to provoke him and threatens to disown her if she and Junior have mixed-race kids. Junior contemplates that Penelope might be interested in him only because he's a novelty at school, yet he admits he's also using her to increase his popularity. Regardless of these shallow reasons, Junior acknowledges that they also share deeper connections. They both have big ambitions and a shared desire to escape their small-town lives. Penelope dreams of globetrotting and studying architecture at Stanford. As he ponders their relationship, Junior shares a sketch he has made of Penelope, questioning the reader if it's wrong for him to gaze at her all day.

chapter 16

Junior is captivated by Penelope in her volleyball attire, noticing her white apparel against her fair skin. As he observes her performance in a match against Davenport Lady Gorillas, he realizes he's falling for this white girl. He communicates this to Rowdy via email, seeking counsel. However, Rowdy's response is dismissive as he criticizes the usual fetishization of white girls amongst Native Americans, urging Junior to move on. Seeking further counsel, Junior turns to Gordy at school. Before addressing Junior's matter, Gordy insists on conducting some research. He comes across an article highlighting the media's selective attention towards a missing white girl, Cynthia, in Mexico, whilst ignoring hundreds of other missing Mexican girls in the same vicinity. Gordy's blunt conclusion is that Junior is behaving as a typical racist.

chapter 17

Junior lives a double life, split between Wellpinit and Reardan, feeling a half breed of white and Native American. He perceives his native identity as an underpaid part-time gig and conceals his poverty from his Reardan friends. Junior musters courage to invite Penelope to the Winter Formal, hiding his financial constraints behind a façade. Unable to afford transportation, he arranges to meet Penelope at the venue. He dons his father's old suit, appreciated by Penelope as retro, and they dance the night away, intentionally skipping the photos he couldn't purchase. Post-dance, Roger and friends invite the pair to an all-night diner, where Junior overspends on food and eventually ends up vomiting in the bathroom out of stress. Roger discovers Junior there and lends him $40, assuming he's love-struck and has misplaced his wallet. Upon leaving, Penelope confronts Junior about his financial situation, which he admits to. She assures him Roger won't reveal his secret. When she learns her father won't be picking him up, she is upset at the thought of him walking 22 miles home in the wee hours. She tells Roger of Junior's predicament and Roger drives Junior home.

chapter 18

During a school day in the computer lab, Junior snaps a photo of his grinning self and sends it to Rowdy. In return, Rowdy responds with an image of his bare behind. Gordy spots the image and questions if it's someone's "posterior." Junior, however, corrects him, stating it's a stinky ass. He confides in Gordy about Rowdy's ill feelings towards him for leaving the reservation. Junior mentions the belief held by some Native Americans that you must assimilate into white culture to improve your life. Gordy counters this by asking if that were the case, why aren't all white people thriving? Junior shares how people on his reservation label him an apple—red exterior but white interior. Gordy highlights the perpetual conflict between maintaining individuality and being part of the community. He notes how people shun both him and Junior due to their oddness. Despite desiring to embrace Gordy, Junior is told not to be overly emotional. Junior ends his thoughts by noting that even the strange boys fear expressing their feelings.

chapter 19

Mary communicates with Junior through a handwritten letter. She expresses her frustration over the catch-22 situation of needing experience to get a job, but not being able to gain experience without one. She is channeling this frustration by penning down her autobiography. Mary, along with her husband, is now residing in a shiny metal trailer. She describes it as the most splendid place on earth.

chapter 20

Junior's father shares with him the story of meeting his mother, who is eight years his senior. The tale is told as an encouragement for Junior to join the Reardan basketball team and reach for his dreams. At tryouts, the coach warns that 16 of the 40 boys will be cut. After enduring grueling exercises and intense one-on-one matches against Roger, a significantly taller player, Junior makes the varsity team. Following week, the Reardan team visits Wellpinit. The crowd chants derogatory remarks at Junior, calling him by his Reardan name. Upon entering the gym, the fans turn their backs on him, except for Rowdy, who remains loyal. During the game, Junior is hit in the head with a quarter, causing him to bleed. Alone in the locker room, Eugene, a newly minted EMT, treats his wound. Despite the risk of scarring, Junior insists he be stitched up on the spot. He resumes playing, but a harsh blow from Rowdy leaves him unconscious and diagnosed with a concussion at the hospital. His coach visits and stays the night, keeping Junior company with stories as he's not allowed to sleep.

chapter 21

Over the festive season, Junior's household is strapped for cash, and his father indulges in excessive drinking. He departs on Christmas Eve, returning on January 2nd nursing a severe hangover. Upon his return, Junior's father expresses regret to Junior about the holiday. Junior forgives him and his father instructs him to extract something from his boot, which turns out to be five dollars. Junior contemplates how his dad could have used the money for one last whiskey bottle. Junior describes the situation as a beautiful, ugly thing.

chapter 22

Junior expresses concern that he might be perceived as favoring white individuals, despite his appreciation for Mary, his parents, and his grandmother. As a student at Reardan, he's encountered a mix of good and bad parenting, pointing out that he has white friends with fathers he's never met. Despite its shortcomings, Junior believes life in Reardan trumps life in Wellpinit, albeit marginally. Shifting the focus, Junior speaks about his grandmother, attributing her greatest quality to be tolerance. He laments that while Native Americans used to respect differences, viewing epileptics as shamans and gay people as magical, the current generation is less accepting. His grandmother, however, remained true to traditional values. Tragically, she was hit and killed by a drunk driver while returning from a powwow. Her final words, "Forgive him," suggests she was referring to her attacker.

chapter 23

Junior's family hosts a wake three days post his grandmother's demise, drawing approximately 2,000 people. The locals cease harassing Junior following her passing. The turnout is so large that the coffin is moved to the Spokane football field's center. Mary, Junior's sister, is absent as she can't afford the journey from Montana. A wealthy white man named Ted speaks about a decade ago when he bought an apparently stolen powwow dance outfit from a Native American, realizing it was illicit. He discloses that he hired an anthropologist to locate the rightful owner, Grandmother Spirit, but found her deceased. He seeks pardon and wishes to return the outfit. Junior's mother reassures Ted that there's no need for apology. She clarifies that Junior's grandmother never owned such an outfit, and it doesn't resemble Spokane's style. She hypothesizes it could be Sioux or Oglala, but admits she's no expert, and neither was Ted's hired anthropologist. The crowd, amused by the mix-up, laughs. Junior equates laughter and tears in moments of death. After this, Ted departs from the Spokane reservation.

chapter 24

Junior presents Penelope with a DIY Valentine's Day card, the same day Eugene, his father's closest friend, is shot dead in an altercation over wine outside a convenience store. Eugene's assailant, Bobby, takes his own life in prison weeks later. Junior finds solace in drawing cartoons and delving into the works of the Greek playwright, Euripides, given to him by his friend Gordy. Junior's depression leads him to consider quitting school at Reardan. Despite being absent 15 to 20 times for legitimate reasons, he turns up at his social studies class. His teacher, Mrs. Jeremy, sarcastically comments on his appearance, prompting an unexpected show of support from Gordy and the rest of the class. They all stand up, drop their textbooks on their desks and leave the room, leaving Junior alone. He then calls Mrs. Jeremy an "asshole" and walks out. To cope with grief, Junior starts making lists of positive aspects of his life, such as friends, music, food, literature, and basketball players.

chapter 25

Junior earns a spot as a starting freshman on Reardan's varsity basketball team due to his shooting skills, despite not being particularly big or fast. He vomits before every match, a habit his coach tolerates, having experienced the same in his youth. After losing to Wellpinit, Reardan bounces back with a winning streak of twelve games before a rematch with Wellpinit, hosted by Reardan. Though Reardan's record is 12-1, Wellpinit remains undefeated. A local news crew interviews Junior prior to the match, but he remains elusive, not wanting to discuss his feelings about playing against his old team besides labeling it as "weird." The night of the game sees a crowd of two thousand people. The coach regards Junior as Reardan's secret weapon and assigns him to guard Rowdy, his former teammate. The game starts with Reardan winning the tip off, but Rowdy immediately steals the ball. In an adrenaline-fueled moment, Junior manages to take the ball from Rowdy, dribbles down the court, and scores a three-pointer. Despite not taking any other shots, Junior keeps Rowdy to just four points, leading Reardan to win by forty points. However, Junior feels a twinge of guilt after the win. He compares Reardan's superiority and resources to Goliath and Wellpinit's struggles to David’s. He contemplates the disparities between the two teams, considering the personal hardships of the Wellpinit players, such as absent meals and abusive parents. Overcome with shame, Junior retreats to the locker room in tears. Following their defeat, Wellpinit's season spirals downwards. Although Reardan wins all its regular season games, they are unexpectedly defeated by a smaller team in the early state playoffs.

chapter 26

Junior communicates with Rowdy via an e-mail, expressing his regret for their extreme defeat and subsequent spoiling of their season. In reaction, Rowdy threatens to defeat Reardan in the following year, predicting that Junior will breakdown in tears. Junior counter argues, stating that he's the one who emerged victorious, leading Rowdy to reply with a simple "Ha-ha". Junior acknowledges that their conversation seems laden with homophobic slurs, but he cherishes it as it constitutes the first real conversation between them since his departure from the reservation.

chapter 27

At just fourteen, Junior has attended forty-two funerals, a stark contrast to his white peers. He believes that alcohol is the common thread in the unhappiness of Native American families. His school counselor, Miss Warren, breaks the news to Junior during chemistry class that his sister, Mary, has died. Shocked and upset, Junior flees the school to wait for his father in the snow, consumed by fear that he too may have died. However, his dad arrives, and Junior's relief manifests as uncontrollable laughter. His dad explains that Mary and her husband had a party, got drunk, and fell asleep as their trailer caught fire, resulting in their demise. This sends Junior into fits of laughter, causing him to vomit, the taste strangely reminiscent of cantaloupe, Mary's favorite fruit. He falls asleep and dreams of a childhood incident involving cantaloupe and a wasp sting. Upon waking, his mother makes him vow never to consume alcohol. Overwhelmed at Mary's burial, he runs into the woods, where he unexpectedly encounters Rowdy, his friend, who secretly attended the funeral. Rowdy, in tears, blames Junior for Mary's departure from the reservation which led to her death. The following day, Junior returns to school, preferring that over attending a wake filled with drunken mourners. His classmates at Reardan comfort him, with Penelope crying in sympathy.

chapter 28

Junior's academic performance is depicted through a creative cartoon of his report card. His grades are impressive, scoring A's in subjects like English, Geometry, Physical Education and Computer Programming. His performance in History and Geology is slightly less stellar but still above average, with an A- and B+ respectively, while Woodshop sees him secure a B-.

chapter 29

Junior, his mom, and dad visit the graveyard, where they tend to the graves of Grandmother Spirit, Eugene, and Mary, and have a picnic. Junior's father, in possession of his saxophone, shares with his family about the dualities of love and death. His mother expresses her pride in him, causing Junior to cry not just for Mary, but for his entire tribe as well. He reflects on the forgotten truth that reservations were originally death camps for Native Americans. Junior then identifies with other 'tribes' he is a part of: cartoonists, chronic masturbators, the economically disadvantaged, and enthusiasts of tortilla chips and salsa. This recognition of his belonging to larger communities is a significant realization for Junior. It offers him reassurance about his own well-being, yet also prompts reflections on those less fortunate. He is reminded of Rowdy and feels his absence deeply.

chapter 30

Junior nostalgically describes his reservation, home to ancient, towering ponderosa pines. He shares a childhood memory with Rowdy of climbing the tallest tree near Turtle Lake when they were ten. Subsequently, Rowdy suggests a swim in Turtle Lake, a waterbody of immeasurable depth according to Junior. He recalls his father's tale of a horse, known as Stupid Horse, that drowned in the lake, reappeared dead on a distant shore, was burnt, only to resurface again in the lake, causing people to briefly avoid it. En route to the lake, the boys decide to climb the big tree instead of swimming. They ascend nearly to the top and take in the all-encompassing view of their reservation. Rowdy breaks the silence with a loud fart, triggering their descent, and they skip the swim. Junior reflects on surviving a year at Reardan, missing Penelope and anticipating Gordy's visit during the summer. Meanwhile, Roger heads to university on a football scholarship. Rowdy's unexpected arrival at Junior's house interrupts his reminiscing. Despite admitting he hates Junior, Rowdy is bored and they decide to play one-on-one. Junior's invitation for Rowdy to join him at Reardan is declined. Instead, Rowdy reveals he's been learning about the nomadic lifestyle of early Native Americans. He labels Junior as the last nomadic Native on the reservation, leading to an emotional moment before they continue playing for hours without keeping score.

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