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Poverty. Alcohol. Violence.

“It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it.” (Alexie, 13).

While reading “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, it was interesting noting how many times Junior attributed his negative situation to being Indian, or more specifically, not being white. As an Indian, he felt less than human, and a loser in a society built for winners. He believes that white people have hope of a bright future, while Indian’s are left to face a “bone-crushing” reality.

What really stuck out to me was how often he spoke about alcohol and poverty on the reservation. He says things like, “I know only, like, five Indians in our whole tribe who have never drunk alcohol,” (158) or “I was crying because I knew five or ten or fifteen more Spokanes would die during the next year, and that most of them would die because of booze” (216). I decided to look further into the link between alcohol and poverty, which is addressed by the World Bank in this fact sheet. “Alcohol-related mortality is often highest among the poorest people in a society…and a significant part of family expenditure” (World Bank).



Alcohol usage is also linked to higher rates of violence. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that, “Not only may alcohol consumption promote aggressiveness, but victimization may lead to excessive alcohol consumption.” There tends to be a two-way association between alcohol use and violence. It is interesting how often Junior talks about the commonality of violence on his reservation…perhaps this is further linked to the frequent use of alcohol as a result of poverty. Causality cannot be implied, but the correlation between these different factors, and the social structures creating them are very interesting.


One response to “Poverty. Alcohol. Violence.

  1. briancaldwell1 ⋅

    I also noticed all of the references to alcohol and alcoholism within Junior’s world. Your graph really gives a good depiction of what alcohol does to the world, and it would be even more interesting to see how alcohol truly does affect life on the reservations. Part of me actually wondered if noticing the alcohol was part of Junior’s mindset and that the white town had just as many problems. I feel that his psychology (of shame) really played a role in how he viewed himself in relation to other people and so I almost wonder if the alcohol was a symbol of that angst.

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