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Ten Little Indians: Nine Sherman Alexie stories

July 23rd, 2003 · 3 Comments

Time to take books back to the library, so its time to type a quick review of Sherman Alexie’s short story collection Ten Little Indians. What drew me to this book was the review in the Seattle Times , and its particular praise for “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” enticed me.

The stories range in their power and effectiveness. I read them out of order – seeking “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” first (a mom’s strategy – not sure how much of the book I will get to read, so go for the best part first :)). I confess that I didn’t read all the way through the first story – I read it in bits and pieces, here and there, finishing it only when I had read all others – it couldn’t hold me. The same was true for the last tale as well, a bit winding to me. I like stories that are like chocolates, “short and sweet”, a nugget you can hold in your hand, smooth and shaped, with a surprise inside.

But I know the true test of a story, when afterwards I am still thinking about the characters, when the notes resonate long in my heart. “Do You Know Where I Am?” as well as “Pawn”, “Can I Get A Witness” and “Flight Patterns” had this effect on me.

Betrayal and deception play strong roles in this collection. The power of names, song, family and especially grief (called “Mr. Grief” in one story). are themes winding among the characters. – themes flowing from the Native American experience, history and culture. Themes that speak with power and truth.

It’s fun- and sometimes a bit strange -to read a collection that is set mostly in Seattle, with both real and fictionalized places. This is the first collection I’ve read that even included appearances by my high school alma mater (p. 72, 151). As the first literary book I’ve had time or energy to read in a while, Ten Little Indians also promises to be the first of more….soon…..as my library hold list will testify!

Also speaking to me strongly through Alexie’s stories (“Flight Patterns”, in particular, I seem to remember) was the issue of what it means to be an Indian and to be non-white in America, particularly post-9/11. What it means to be a minority, and the importance/dominance of race and culture in our country are becoming more vivid to me as my husband and I are raising our biracial children: little girls who look more like their father – and like Sherman Alexie – than they look like me.

Tags: books

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Jul 25, 2003 at 7:43 am

    I was at the library yesterday…only I’m not quite up to your level of progress in life yet – I didn’t get any books for myself. BUT I have read three novels in the past week and a half (they just weren’t from the library), so I guess perhaps I am selling myself short again. I do read. And it was fun. Anyhow, at the library I got 16 books for the children, 2 videos for them, and 1 DVD we could enjoy watching together. You know, just go ahead and delete any of my comments if you get the impression I am piggybacking my own blog onto yours! 😉 You are so inspiring!

  • 2 Patricia A. Taylor // Jul 25, 2003 at 1:47 pm

    I am reading Safely Home, right now, and I am aware more and more of prejudice which seems so wrong to me. I am praying my bi-racial grandson, Jasper, will not suffer, and that your beautiful daughters will be cherished in every way as well. The question of suffering is not at all easy for us to understand, nor to explain to our children. Hugs to you all. I like your simile about chocolate!

  • 3 Alethia // Jul 25, 2003 at 5:55 pm

    Reading a book … I don’t think I’ve managed to read a whole book since Jasper was born. I just bought the book American Massacre: Tragedy at Mountain Meadows by Sally Denton after seeing a review of it on CSPAN’s BookTV. Who knows when I’ll get to read it. Afte readinging your impressions, I think I’ll add Ten Little Indians to my shelf of books to read “sometime.” I, too, am raising a child in a multi-racial, multi-cultural family–just as I grew up in one. I am not naive enough to think that I’ll be able to shield him from all the ignorance and injustice he’ll encounter because of his race. Afterall, my parents were unable to protect me. I can only pray that like me, he’ll be secure and confident in his family’s love and that this will give him the strength and courage to persevere when others might shun him.
    Courage & Peace–Alethia