My Book Nook: Sherman Alexie

Hello Readers!  Well, the weather here has been dreary the last couple of weeks, and it doesn’t appear to be letting up any time soon.  And though it’s only rain, it makes the days seem much longer and the weather much worse than it really is.  So, I like to read something a little light about this time of the year to keep my spirits up until the weather gets better.  And right now, I’m turning to Sherman Alexie for that reading.

Now, if you haven’t heard of Sherman Alexie, let me give you a brief summary.  Sherman Alexie is a Native American writer whose short stories focus on the modern day Native American on reservations.  And while a lot of his stories appear funny on the surface, they are wrought with much more complex emotions and issues revolving around Native Americans, the common profile of them, and life on the reservation.

There are a lot of issues portrayed in these tales, and it all focuses on what it means to be a Native American, how the world sees Native Americans, and what hopes and dreams they have.  These are fascinating stories, and they truly will captivate the audience.  My favorite collection is from Alexie’s book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven.  The title may be long, but the stories make it worthwhile.  One of the most well known stories from the book is “Smoke Signals”, which was adapted into a really great film by the same name.

What I love about this story is the realness the reader gets from it.  The characters are complex, yet they still somewhat match the portrayal we have of the modern day Native American.  Their situations and lives are very much the same as what we often believe to be true on reservations, but yet the reasons behind them are so wrong with political issues and bigger concerns that the reader can sense the desperation most commonly found among reservation dwellers.  It’s fascinating and sad and complex all at once.  And yet the reader feels the need to laugh at what’s occurring because the humor is so wry that you can sense it right away.

That is Alexie’s purpose with his stories.  I met him once when I was working on my undergrad degree in writing, and he explained his stories to us as this.  He said that his stories are meant to portray the life of the “modern day Indian” and life on the reservation.  And they do.   In the most raw and realistic way, his stories portray the same issues facing Native Americans today that we, as a society, have come to expect of them.  And while they are what we expect, they also match our own lives and worlds at the same time.  For myself, I could see some of the same issues in my own life and in my own world.  And it truly made me feel like the characters are not so different from anyone else I would meet in the world.  But at the same time the life of the modern day Indian on the reservation was so different from what I had seen before.  It was eye opening and complex and confusing.

And I loved every minute of it.  So I highly recommend reading any of Alexie’s collections.  I love The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, but I also liked Ten Little Indians, Blasphemy, and The Absolute True Story of a Part-Time Indian.  So, dash off to your favorite local library and pick up a copy of his collections today!

Until next time,

-BBM

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