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9780802117441

Ten Little Indians

Alexie, Sherman

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Ten Little Indians offers eleven poignant and emotionally resonant new stories about Native Americans who, like all Americans, find themselves at personal and cultural crossroads, faced with heartrending, tragic, sometimes wondrous moments of being that test their loyalties, their capacities, and their notions of who they are and who they love. In "The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above," an intellectual feminist Spokane Indian woman saves the lives of dozens of white women all around her, to the bewilderment of her only child, now a grown man who looks back at his life with equal parts fondness, amusement, and regret. In "Do You Know Where I Am?" two college sweethearts rescue a lost cat -- a simple act that has profound moral consequences for the rest of their lives together. In "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," a homeless Indian man must raise $1,000 in twenty-four hours to buy back the fancy dance outfit stolen from his grandmother fifty years earlier. Sherman Alexie's stories are driven by a haunting lyricism and naked candor that cut to the heart of the human experience, shedding brilliant light on what happens when we grow into and out of each other.

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Review:

Sherman Alexie, a gifted poet and storyteller, plows familiar yet fertile ground in his third collection of short stories, Ten Little Indians. The book contains nine stories populated by at least one American Indian (usually of Alexie's Spokane heritage, and mostly living in Seattle), but "little" is a bit of a misnomer; the book addresses human (not necessarily Indian), rituals, ceremony, love, loss, insecurity over life choices, and personal sacrifices. A lot of intense basketball is played, too.

When Alexie is at his best, his stories function at a profoundly sad level, where broken down characters are broken down even more, but are fierce-willed enough to attempt Phoenix-like transitions. Unfortunately, the weakest stories appear first, where characters and situations seem far too contrived or forced, the dialogue wooden, and questions or exclamatory sentences appear annoyingly in bunches. In the last half of the book, a married couple, once intensely in love but now lost in life's routines, deal with infidelity ("Do You Know Where I Am?"); a bright basketball prospect attempts a comeback--twenty years after giving up the game ("Whatever Happened to Frank Snake Church?"); and a transient Indian finds his grandmother's regalia in a pawn shop and seeks to quickly raise the lofty purchase price ("What You Pawn I Will Redeem"). Brilliant turns of phrase abound, such as ceremonies being "pitiful cries to a disinterested God," or when a gym rat plays against "Basketball-Democrats who came to the court alone and ran with anybody and Basketball-Republicans who traveled in groups of five and only ran with each other." Ten Little Indians is an uneven collection, but contains some significant, memorable stories. --Michael Ferch

About the Author:

Sherman Alexie is the author of Reservation Blues, Indian Killer, The Toughest Indian in the World, and Flight. He wrote and directed The Business of Fancy-dancing and also wrote the award-winning screenplay for Smoke Signals, a film based on his short-story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. He has been nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the American Book Award.

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Alexie, Sherman Author
Published by The Grove Press (2003)
ISBN 10: 0802117449 ISBN 13: 9780802117441
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