Junior seems to put some stock in this cliché. He often encourages others to see the world in a positive light, but the “In Like a Lion” chapter also shows how Junior’s changes in perspective, in addition to allowing him to accomplish things he had previously thought impossible (like blocking Rowdy’s dunk) also come with a momentary blindness. Junior forgets that, for most of his life, Reardan has been the enemy, the favorite, the team with all the resources, advantages, and encouragement, and that Wellpinit is the underdog, the team that always loses. After Reardan’s victory, then, Junior experiences a second change in perspective, one that fills him with pain and guilt. In this way Junior’s basketball victory comes to feel like a personal, moral defeat. In addition to “mind over matter,” Junior believes in karma. He thinks that Reardan was upset early in the playoffs for having ruined Wellpinit’s season. In the end, Junior’s somewhat simplified outlook on these complex situations can be seen as a necessary shortcut, a method he uses to avoid getting too bogged down by the irresolvable difficulties of life.

Junior treats many of his interactions with Rowdy with a healthy dose of irony. He describes their email discussion as “long and serious,” for example, when it is short and full of surface-level and offensive insults. Junior’s struggle to navigate his rocky friendship with Rowdy leads him into some moral inconsistencies. He speaks out against homophobia in many places in the novel, including when he condemns the homophobic insults of Rowdy’s father on Thanksgiving, but Junior also participates in homophobia by reciprocating Rowdy’s hateful language. Here, Junior attempts to relate to Rowdy and re-establish their friendship by deflecting Rowdy’s own misplaced homophobia, but he also entices Rowdy’s response. Despite the exchange of insults, Junior and Rowdy’s conversation, though brief, can be seen as very serious. The whole future of their friendship depends upon it. Beneath the surface jibes, much more is being said. Junior is appealing to Rowdy to start healing their friendship, and Rowdy, finally, acknowledges that he is ready to begin that process.

The “Russian guy” Junior refers to in the title of the “Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses” chapter of the novel is Leo Tolstoy, the author of the famous realist novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. The first sentence of the latter is, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In disagreeing with Tolstoy, Junior reveals that his early maturity is not just the result of dealing with many deaths at such a young age, he is also reading advanced books. Though Junior has often mentioned the individual problems caused by alcohol—Junior’s Dad’s absence, Eugene and Junior’s grandmother’s deaths—for the first time, Junior addresses the problem of alcoholism in the Spokane community in general. Alcoholism is a totalizing force. It makes all the members of the families on the Spokane reservation unhappy, and it makes them all unhappy in roughly the same way. Junior’s precocity—his early maturity—make him, in many ways, better equipped to deal with the news of his sister’s death even than the school guidance counselor, Miss Warren.

One of the techniques that make The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian so emotionally affecting is incongruity—two events with very different emotional registers often occur at the same time in the story. Readers learn of Eugene’s violent death outside of a 7-Eleven, for example, in the same breath that they learn that Junior has given a handmade Valentine’s card to Penelope. Then as Junior learns of Mary’s death, here, Miss Warren’s hug gives him an erection. Junior’s shock and grief to hear of his sister’s unexpected death, the third major death to affect him and his family in a short period of time, sends him into a fit of hysterical laugher. Junior’s laughter, too, seems incongruous with the news. But, as Junior has said, when it comes to death, laughter is really the same thing as tears. Junior cantaloupe-tasting vomit, and sudden dream of the last time he ate cantaloupe could be seen as an unconscious processing of his extreme emotion. It can also be read as an almost mystical experience, an experience that harkens back to the magic that was an integral part of American Indian culture in bygone days. Junior, however, opts not to interpret the strange experience.