Sherman Alexie

Currently I am reading “Blasphemy”, a collection of new and selected stories by the contemporary Native American writer Sherman Alexie. If you don’t know him, this short story title should suffice to show what you can expect from him: “Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock.” The story is heart-breaking. You wouldn’t think this was possible with such a whimsical title but that is what Alexie does, walking a tightrope deftly between the shams (no, not shamans) of both Native American and American culture, presenting the plight of each in juxtaposition objectively and without sentimentality on the cusp of the twenty-first century. He is in his mid-forties, has written over 20 books of novels, stories, and poems, the latter two being a very intermingling hybrid in his hands. He has won all kinds of awards, has written a screenplay based on one of his stories that was made into a successful full-length movie, has written music and formed his own band, but that isn’t why I love him. I love him because he is so honest (brutally at times), yet outrageously funny while dealing with very difficult subjects, among them miscegenation, alcoholism, poverty, geneocide, and suicide in the most poignant way I have ever encountered. In the end he somehow manages to magically show that both our plights are intertwined without any polemics or trace of dogma. I recommend his earlier books (mostly because I happen to own them and know them best): “The First Indian on the Moon” (the hybrid poetry I mentioned before), “Toronto and the Lone Ranger Fistfight in Heaven” (stories, the title story of which was the one the movie was made about), and “Reservation Blues,” a novel with a bedeviling premise. He is a delight to read and you are in for a real treat if you do. I would be very appreciative if you really enjoy a book of his I have not mentioned and get back to me about how much and why.

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