Perma Red and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Over the course of the past semester we have read several books about Native American’s and their culture. The two books I found to be the most interesting were Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. In each story we see a young person from a reservation dealing with their Native Identities, Love, Loss and everything in between. Both of these novels have their similarities and their differences, but I believe they both offer insight into Native American culture that would be hard to come across elsewhere.
Native Identity issues are a common theme throughout both Perma Red & The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (ATDPTI). In ATDPTI we see Arnold Spirit Junior struggle to find his place in both the reservation where he lives, and the primarily white Reardan High School where he attends school. When Arnold transferred from the school on the reservation to Reardan High his fellow tribe members from Wellpinit called him a traitor and didn’t bother to acknowledge his attempts to escape the cycle of poverty and oppression that is often associated with reservation life. They call him names like “apple” (Alexie 131), meaning he may be red-skinned on the outside, but he wants to be white on the inside.
In the story of Perma Red, we see one of the main characters, Charlie Kicking Woman struggle to associate with his people and lose touch with his native identity over time (Earling 267). We also see Louise’s character struggling to find her own identity when she thinks about leaving the reservation in the future. However, when she stays on the reservation and becomes more in touch with her roots she grows more as a person.
In both novels we see the characters base someone’s identity both as a native and as a person in general on the amount on money they have. Arnold bases his own worth on his socioeconomic status in the chapter Dance, Dance, Dance (Alexie 118). In this chapter Arnold explains that a lot of the white people assumed that Spokane Indians were rich because of the casino on the reservation or because they get money from the government, however it’s quite the opposite. Arnold also judges himself on the amount of money he and his family have and concludes that he is somewhat of a lesser-being than his white peers at Reardan for this very reason. Arnold discusses how he pretended to have money so that he would fit in, but when his peers find out he really is poor, they do whatever they can to help him, and don’t judge him or shun him like he assumed they would.
In Perma Red Louise’s character is somewhat shallow. She seeks white, rich gentleman suitors who she knows will spend some cash on her. In Perma Red we also see people with a lot of money using that money to gain power. For example, when Harvey keeps buying more and more of the reservation land, we see the other characters view him as powerful...