We’ve been talking about the strengths and limitations of language with each of our texts, and I wanted to discuss it again in this context. Junior overtly laments the limitations of words, and describes the various ways the people in his life make up for those limitations (Rowdy fights, Junior draws, etc.) How does the absence of adequate words lead Junior to change the way he makes connections with his peers on the reservation and at his fancy high school?
The way Alexie presents the narrative highlights structural and institutional issues that many young kids in the U.S. aren’t always exposed to (i.e. rates of alcoholism in native populations, the misconceptions of the government pouring money into native populations). Can we talk about this? Do we feel like Junior is teaching the white kids, and by extension, the reader? Is this a didactic text?
The version I read had an author’s note at the end for the 10-year anniversary of the book. Alexie describes how there are two heroes in the text: Junior and Rowdy. How is Rowdy heroic? Does he represent what Junior left behind, or point to Junior’s future?
Access is explored in really interesting ways. Junior’s experiences remind young readers that a basketball game isn’t always played on equal grounds, even if both teams are “good.” During the class protest where everybody dropped their books in defense of Junior but left him in the class, I was reminded of the misguided protest by the students at Star’s school. Does it make sense that the white kids are as sympathetic to Junior as they are, after treating him so badly just a few months before? How are we supposed to feel about these students overall?
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