Like many characters in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior’s mom is a caring and intelligent person who would likely have had a better life had it not been for her lack of access to wealth and opportunities. Junior even imagines that, had his mother had access to quality education and resources, she would have made an excellent professor at the local college – she’s a voracious reader and has an incredible memory. She’s also a supportive mother who keenly understands that Junior’s best chance at success is to attend Reardan. Although she knows there will be challenges – including judgment from their own community – she ultimately wants a better life for her son.

Junior’s mother is a recovered alcoholic who no longer drinks, but her husband, Junior’s father, still struggles with his addiction to alcohol. While both she and her husband are good, present parents compared to others on the reservation, they aren’t perfect. Whether or not they drink, they both suffer from depression and stagnation, and Junior’s mother’s suffering only increases over time as the Spirit family endures unthinkable circumstances. Her mother, Grandmother Spirit, is killed by a drunk driver, and her daughter is killed in an accidental house fire. These tragedies leave her bereft, and she even begs Junior in the thick of her grief not to leave her. Her plea only furthers Junior’s guilt over his perceived abandonment of his tribe and family. But despite her pain, Junior’s mom leans on her tribe in times of sorrow and maintains a healthy relationship with her husband and children, staying true to the strong bonds and tribal nature that characterize the Spirit family. Even as she mourns the loss of her daughter as the family visits Mary’s grave in the chapter “Remembering,” she tells Junior, “I’m so proud of you.” This simple statement not only shows the depth of her love for her family, but also assures Junior that she has never blamed him for abandoning the family, which is one of his greatest fears.