Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the little white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger. I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.

Junior struggles emotionally with leaving his reservation to attend school in Reardan because it means there’s no community in which he’s fully accepted. On his reservation, he’s a traitor, and at Reardan, he’s the new kid who’s of a different race. Throughout the novel, Junior expresses that he doesn’t know where he truly belongs, as he’s often at odds with his Native peers as well as his white peers. Even the title of the book refers to Junior’s perception that he is only a “part-time” Indian. While Junior’s search for a better life is a critical one, it also causes him a lot of loneliness.

In the middle of a crazy and drunk life, you have to hang on to the good and sober moments tightly.

Junior’s young adulthood has been filled with more obstacles and tragedies than most children of his age could imagine. From growing up in poverty and experiencing racism against Natives to losing his grandmother, Eugene, and his older sister all in the same year, it’s paramount that Junior hold on to the good parts of his life if he’s going to emotionally recover from his trauma. He also emphasizes appreciating the sober moments; in this case, sober is a term both literal and symbolic. Literally, Junior knows that alcohol has been the driving force behind all the tragedy in his life, and that sobriety would increase his family’s chances of being happy. Symbolically, sober moments refer to experiences that are undiluted, pure, and heartening.

I'm never going to quit living life this hard, you know? I'm never going to surrender to anybody. Never, ever, ever.

As Mr. P tells Junior after being smashed in the face with a textbook, Junior has always been a fighter. He fights against his brain damage and seizures, he fights against the injustice he faces as a Native, and he even fights against the cultural pressures of his own community by attending Reardan. Although it’s difficult, and although he’s deeply aware of the hurt that he’s caused his friends and tribe, Junior knows that he’s capable of something more in his life, and he’s not going to give up on his goal of escaping the reservation.