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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Shopping for Porcupine  >  Discussion Questions
The Whiteboy Award
Essay Summary: 
Kantner wins the prestigious Whiting Award. He travels to New York City to receive the award, revealing his discomfort with travel and city life. He returns to Alaska to have news of the prize money announced on the radio.

Discussion Questions:

Why do you think Kantner jokes about receiving such a prestigious award?

Points to consider:

  • He admits he's uncomfortable about the recognition, and having always been recognized for being a "whiteboy," the name of the award adds humor to his self-deprecating style.

Why do you think China finds the city too loud?

Points to consider:

  • The noise level for those even just traveling from rural Alaska to Anchorage is noticeable, and to travel to New York City drastically louder.

Why does Kantner say he wasn't used to not being judged by his skin color or who his friends or parents were?

Points to consider:

  • Since he grew up as one of the only white boys in the area, he'd been accustomed to being judged by his skin color and also by who his parents were.

How does Kantner feel about money?

Points to consider:

  • He's not interested in being rich, but is concerned about the perception of his award on others.

Why do people joke with him about his award?

Points to consider:

  • Joking and teasing is a way of life for Inupiaq people. The joking is also a way to let people know you approve or disapprove of what someone is doing.

Final Questions:

Discuss the chance meeting of running into Chester and Bish in New York City. How does this relate to the idea of a small world?

What details of the city would only be noticed by someone who lives Out?

How is the award a "whiteboy" award, in terms of the recognition and the announcement of the prize money over the radio?

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