17 March 2009

18. Ten Little Indians

Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie
I found this book an the shelf at a Goodwill store. I remembered Mike's reviews of some of Alexie's work and decided to spend the ninety-nine cents. :-) I am glad I did.
Sherman Alexie's style is very interesting. This was a collection of short stories. All the stories have Indian main characters and families. There is a ton of humor and sarcasm in the writing, and much of the humor is of the self-deprecating type. Alexie is an Indian himself. He would understand what it feels like to be an Indian in today's society. He understands the problems faced by these people, how they view events of the past, and how they "fit" into the culture. Who better to poke fun at it than an insider.
Why is it interesting? The humor I mean. I learned from it. Why are these jokes funny? Normally I would not chuckle at someone saying the things Alexie wrote. The difference is that I think he wrote this book, and maybe his other works, to show me that I am not aware of the problems faced by these folks and the perceptions of the "white" people.
For instance, he mentions how people think that all indians are somehow more spiritually connected to the earth, water, animals and the wind than other people. He points out that this, and I must admit my own prejudice in this way, is not true. Indian people are just people. Some spiritual. Some not. Some smart. Some not so much. Just like everyone else. The stereotypical drunken gambling reservation living unemployed guy wearing black and a cowboy hat is used in the book. It is used to point out that there are people who fit that sterotype, but most do not.
These are short stories. I really enjoyed a few of them. "The Search Engine", "Can I Get A Witness?", "Flight Patterns" and "The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above" were all excellent and eye-opening.
He covered a wide array of topics through these stories. Politics, religion, sexual-orientation, alcoholism, adultery, racism, relationships between parents and children, life on a reservation, and many more. Each story tackled different subjects. Some better than others, but always revealing more in the story than the events of the story itself.
I really liked how one Indian mother had instructed her 11 year old son. She told him that when a public school teacher said "Christopher Columbus discovered America", that he should run up to the front of the class, jump on the teacher's back, and yell "I discovered you!". See what I mean? It is wicked funny. It is sarcastic. It is actually quite hilarious. The problem is that the mother is correct. That is what I kept finding throughout this book. I was shown a few pieces of the world looking at it from a different angle. It could be a very different world.
I will read more Sherman Alexie works.
(Mike... If you want I will mail this one to you.)

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