Ten Little Indians

ISBN: 0965259684
ISBN 13: 9780965259682
By: Sherman Alexie

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Reader's Thoughts


This book made me laugh and then broke my heart, over and over with each story, and not necessarily in that order.I first picked up this book when it first came out, about 10 years ago. I thought it was fine, but I didn't really "get" it. On this reading, I felt like my heart had a direct line to the text and all its sorrow and joy. I think this is because these stories are about joy and loss, the holes we allow into our lives when we fall down. At 20 years old, what did I know about love and joy and getting kicked on my ass? Answer: not nearly as much as I know at 30. And I'll be revisiting this book again and again.If you like sterile stories with sweet conclusions, this will not be the book for you. This is a book that asks questions it cannot answer- about race, about love, about marriage, about family. The characters are challenged and challenging. If you don't laugh and cry, you probably aren't human.


Originally posted at http://olduvaireads.wordpress.com/201...Sometimes you chance upon books by fate, others by the placement of library shelves.My most often frequented shelves in the library, other than the children’s section, are the Hold shelves. I do a lot of book holds, which can be tricky as the library only allows TEN HOLDS! And it’s an Argh ARGH situation as I request books for myself and the more popular picture books for the kids.But because the Holds shelves are located perpendicular to the ‘A’s and ‘B’s of the adult fiction shelves, I tend to scan those as I walk past. And this time, Sherman Alexie’s Ten Little Indians called out to me. I’m not sure why. It’s cover art isn’t exactly eye-catching. But I pulled it off the shelf anyway and opened the cover.And there I saw a paperclipped note from Hilton Singapore. And I knew I was meant to borrow this book! Haha!Alexie sure knew how to suck this reader into the first story, with a bookish college student named Corliss. She’s a reader, a lover of books. “In the Washington State University library, her version of Sherwood Forest, Corliss walked the poetry stacks. She endured a contentious and passionate relationship with this library. The huge number of books confirmed how much magic she’d been denied for most of her life, and now she hungrily wanted to read every book on every shelf. An impossible task, to be sure, Herculean in its exaggeration, but Corliss wanted to read herself to death. She wanted to be buried in a coffin filled with used paperbacks.”Sometimes when writers do this I want to yell, hey that’s cheating! How could you throw in a bookish book lover knowing that a bookish book lover would be reading this too? That just means that I cannot help but fall for this story. How could I not want to befriend, to hug a character who thinks such thoughts: Corliss wondered what happens to a book that sits unread on a library shelf for thirty years. Can a book rightfully be called a book if it never gets read? If a tree falls in a forest and gets pulped to make paper for a book that never gets read, but there’s nobody there to read it, does it make a sound?And this: Corliss had never once considered the fate of library books. She’d never wondered how many books go unread. She loved books. How could she not worry about the unread? She felt like a disorganized scholar, an inconsiderate lover, an abusive mother, and a cowardly soldier.Corliss is Spokane Indian and she comes across a book of poems written by a Spokane, someone she had never heard of and since “only three thousand other Spokanes of various Spokane-ness existed in the whole world” she didn’t understand how she had never heard of this fellow poetry-loving Spokane.And she is determined to track him down. It’s a bit tricky because he doesn’t want to be found.In another story, Do You Know Where I Am?, Alexie writes of a couple who have been together since college. “We laughed and kissed and made love and read books in bed. We read through years of books, decades of books. There were never enough books for us. Read, partially read, and unread, our books filled the house, stacked on shelves and counters, piled into corners and closets. Our marriage became an eccentric and disorganised library. Whitman in the pantry! The Bronte sisters in the television room! Hardy on the front porch! Dickinson in the laundry room! We kept a battered copy of Native Son in the downstairs bathroom so our guests would have something valuable to read!”Of course it’s not about their reading habits, not at all. But this passage was too cute. And the story was just so very sweet.The other stories in Ten Little Indians aren’t really sweet but they were mostly good reads.


These short stories were packed. There were some marvelous insights about gender and identity. I don't usually read short stories, but I have been a fan of Mr. Alexie for a long time, and I was reminded of him when he was interviewed by Stephen Colbert recently. The next day I found a copy of this hard cover remaindered and decided to read it. I bought his young adult novel for my son as a present, and I might read that next.http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colb...


Two hours ago, I said I was going to bed, and then I thought, "I'll just read a little to calm myself before bed," which is what I usually do, but which was a poor decision in this instance. Now I have finished with the book, and I have wept all over my pillow, and now I can never read this book again for the first time and there are no pillow stores open at this hour, so fuck everything.I don't even know if I can talk about it. You read these stories and the tone is so unironic, so attached, so sincere, that it feels foreign. I love that about these stories. I love how they seem so transparent, so earnest, that you feel like they can't surprise you, and then, the next thing you know, you are hysterically sobbing in that embarrassing way, that can't-stop-need-a-paper-bag hyperventilation crying that you haven't done since you saw Titanic (in theaters) (with your parents) when you were like 14 and couldn't bear those old people letting the water rise around their bed. (An incident your parents still recall fondly, and like to reminisce about at family parties, or to strangers on the street, because you almost gave them a heart attack, first out of fear that you were having a heart attack, and then, once that subsided, out of laughter.)Basically, this book usurps I-don't-know-what as my Favorite Book Ever in the World. It is perfect. Everyone you know will like it. It will hurt you profoundly; also it will make you laugh. It will make you think about racism and colonialism and our broken country, then it will remind you of your humanity and affirm that profound kindness and beauty exist in the world. I would like to throw a parade for this book. We could make giant parade float balloons of the book. We could march down the street together, in front of the giant floats. We could all hold hands and carry a giant banner that reads, "Fuck everything that is not this book."


This is book is a collection of short stories about identifying as a Native American. I found a lot of the stories related to "identifying as a Native American after 9/11"--or at least that was certainly a component to the story. When I checked how old the book was, it looked as though it had been written in 2003, so obviously this was a poignant subject for Mr. Alexie. Also, many of the stories mentioned George W. Bush, so this was obviously a real-life character that was having a strong impact on the author. My favorite short story was probably "Do Not Go Gentle" about a young couple awaiting the fate of their just born baby. It resonated with me for obvious reasons given my current pregnant state, but I also thought it was a very tender story about the crossroads of culture and modern gentrified medicine. Most of the stories were quite good...I feel like I need to "talk it out" with someone to develop common threads and to pull some themes out of it--even though the book is blatantly about crossroads of culture for Native Americans...there seems to be something deeper going on in his stories that I'm just not able to grasp on my own.


Hmmm....after absolutely loving The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, this one was a little disappointing. And it's funny, because there were some stories (like "What Ever Happened to Frank Snake Church?" and "The Search Engine") that revealed the same open-hearted, funny writer that I loved in Part-Time Indian. There were others that just didn't ring quite as deeply true and one ("Can I Get a Witness?") that I found actively distasteful. I still look forward to reading more Alexie -- but I think he should stick with the skeptical optimism of "Frank Snake Church" rather than going all the way down the cynical path as he seems to do in "Witness."


This is the type of literary "super-realistic-warts-and-all" style that I don't really like. But this was for a more-important-than-average book group, so I made a greater-than-average effort to finish. I didn't like the casual (and very crass) sexuality thrown in at the beginning for no real reason, but Alexie either put it in the earlier stories to weed out the undedicated, or I got used to it. However, I liked a few of the stories, and I found some lines that really resonated with me: From Flight Patterns "He invested much of his money in socially responsible funds. Imagine that! Imagine choosing to trust your money with companies that supposedly made their millions through ethical means. Imagine the breathtaking privilege of such a choice."And from The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above "I don't understand her, not then or now. She's a contradiction. She has always contained multitudes."

Jamie Rolleston

I am not a fan of short stories, generally speaking. However, I couldn't put this book down. As a Māori woman (indigenous to New Zealand) this book resonated with me in a huge way. I admire the way the author has challenged the stereotypes that indigenous people face daily, whether those stereo types come from within or without.The ease with which he was able to write as a male or a female character amazed and the characters were quick to grasp you and hang on to the reader until the end of each story.My favourite was the first story "the search engine"I would recommend this series of short stories to any indigenous person or someone interested in indigenous people. This book will change the way you define what it means to be indigenous.Excellent

Gayle Francis Moffet

Sherman Alexie is a master of his form, and his form is generally the short story. Ten Little Indians is a collection of short stories, each of them about a person who is going through something in his or her life and that person is a Native American. I appreciate how Alexie writes his characters; they're honest and kind and trying very hard to be good people. Sometimes, they're trying simply because they want to be good; sometimes they're trying because there are expectations on them as Native Americans, and sometimes, they're trying to be good because they know they're not great.I didn't connect with every single story in this collection, but I felt for all these characters, and I cheered for them and cried for them and hoped they were okay, and every one of these characters is someone who feels real and honest, and that's a wonderful thing to have in the world.


Picked it up at the library while trying to find Sherman's new book, which wasn't there. As with 95% of Sherman Alexie's books I thought it was a strong read and a great set of stories. Things that most Native people can connect to pretty easy. My favorite stories are definitely the story about the boy and his mom who are involved with an cohort of white women in a self-help group and the movement of identity from them to this group where there's an attempt of cultural appropriation and the son deals with being raised in this environment as he reaches adulthood. The story about the firefighter turned basketball player I thought was great as well, the development of ceremony and the pretty common ceremony of basketball. The first story was something I guess I could relate to well and ended up enjoying. I've never understood how people who are not Native could like Alexie's work so much as it is infused with culture-specific detail from start to finish. It's good tho, otherwise he may not be able to write all he has.


Just read it. This is my favorite work by Sherman Alexie. He is a master of short story, and he writes about the topic he knows best: Northwest Indians living in poverty. Basketball finds its way into many stories; Alexie is obviously an avid enthusiast. He writes from the heart. What a joy to read.

Anne Monfort

Alexie, Sherman. Ten Little Indians: Stories. New York: Grove, 2003. Print.Ten Indians, Nine Stories, and Two Thumbs Way UpTen Little Indians by Sherman Alexie consists of nine different short stories. While each story exists independently of the others, all of them have main characters that are members of the Spokane Indian tribe. The stories deal with very heavy subjects from homelessness to suicide bombers to the events of September eleventh. There is one particularly controversial story that has the main character justifying the events of September eleventh. “‘You know,’ she said, ‘I don’t think everybody who died in the towers was innocent.’ ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘Osama’s press agent?’” (Alexie 89). One major theme that is pervasive throughout every story is the identity crisis that every American Indian struggles with. This conflict comes from attempting to combine and reconcile tribal ideals with modern living; historic perspectives with modern thinking and political correctness. Alexie does a phenomenal job of capturing the mindset of his characters in a realistic and humorous way. “If white folks assumed she was serene and spiritual and wise simply because she was Indian, and thought she was special based on those mistaken assumptions, then Corliss saw no reason to contradict them” (Alexie 11). The thoughts and feelings are very normal and average but always colored with the fact that the character is an Indian. The stories expose racisms and preconceived notions that people have about Indians. “Harlan Atwater was making fun of being Indian, of the essential sadness of being Indian, and so maybe he was saying Indians aren’t sad at all. Maybe Indians are just big-footed hitchhikers eager to tell a joke” (Alexie 7). Alexie writes as an Indian about other Indians. His stories are bright and alive and captivating. His writing is passionate and powerful and expresses all the pain and joy of a tribe of people. But rather than being pitiable and pathetic, it is very funny and relatable. Not that the circumstances in the stories are so common but his style of writing is such that you can understand exactly what the characters are going through even if you never have had the experience. The characters are so wonderfully developed, clever and crazy that they leap off the page and you feel like you’ve known them for years. The one trait that every character in every story has is a powerful sense of humor that is present even in the direst of circumstances. Alexie uses his characters to laugh at himself, at all the Indians and at all the white people that racially profile them. “‘For the rest of your academic life,’ she’d told him on his first day of kindergarten, ‘whenever any teacher tells you that Columbus discovered America, I want you to run up to him or her, jump on his or her back, and scream, ‘I discover you!’” (Alexie 219). He does not tread lightly or attempt to spare any feelings but is blatantly honest and even silly about sex, alcohol, sickness, death, and the treatment of Indians. And, that is what makes all the stories and this whole book so magical.

Andy Miller

A great collection of short stories. All focused on Native American characters but there is great diversity in the lives of the characters and the themes of stories--from a smart, poor college student with her whole future ahead of her, to economically successful Native Americans some with a full life to match and others with inner demons that haunt that success to finally, the alcoholic, down on their luck Native Americans that Alexie brings to life. My favorites:"The Search Engine" about a young Native American attending Washington State University who discovers a book of Native American poetry by someone she has never heard of--and how she tracks him down in Seattle 30 years after he wrote his book and his surprised by his life, including his affection and loyalty to his White adoptive parents"Do you Know Where I Am" where a son of very successful Native American parents recounts meeting his future wife in college, their courtship, their marriage including the couple of rough spots that made their happy marriage seem real and made the good bye at the end of the story even more poignant"What you Pawn I will redeem" is a narrative by an alcoholic, homeless Native American who discovers his grandmother's regalia in a pawnshop. The heartbreaking, at times frustrating, story of the narrator's attempts to earn money to redeem the regalia; the kindness of many "White" people who helped him only to have the narrator squander their generousity in an alcohol binge"What Ever Happened to Frank Snake Church" recounts a year of a 40 year old park ranger who quits his job after his father's death to reclaim his basketball prowess from his days of basketball star and University of Washington recruit which he abruptly gave up when his mother diedThere are of course, other good stories, I suspect other readers would have different favorites--but I know that most readers will find this to be a great collection well worth the read

Vince Darcangelo

http://archive.boulderweekly.com/0724...This review originally appeared in the BOULDER WEEKLYThe business of being humanSherman Alexie emphasizes the real and universal in the human experienceby Vince Darcangelo- - - - - - - - - - - - Sherman Alexie is a human being. He writes stories about human beings and their trials and triumphs. And he is good at what he does–so good, in fact, that he has transcended the label of being a Native American author. Quite simply, he is an author."Because of my relative fame and fortune, I’ve transcended all sorts of racial and racist labels," says Alexie. "It’s interesting how green can change your color."But the 36-year-old Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian certainly does not shy away from his history. With books like The Lone Ranger and Tanto Fistfight in Heaven, The Toughest Indian in the World, Indian Killer, Reservation Blues and his newest short story collection Ten Little Indians, Alexie has become the most recognizable voice in Native American literature today.While Alexie is an award-winning author, poet and filmmaker (Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing), perhaps his greatest gift is the ability to create characters so deep that they defy the limitations of race, gender and other stereotypes. This is no more evident than in the short story "Can I Get a Witness?" from Ten Little Indians–the tale of a woman who survives a terrorist bombing in Seattle. "Can I Get a Witness?" is inspired by the events of 9/11, and–unlike his contemporaries and their blind, lockstep patriotism–Alexie has the guts to challenge the uniform apotheosis of the casualties of the attack."I remember the vocabulary, the rhetoric, was always about the ‘innocent victims.’ The heroes and innocent victims. And I kept thinking, ‘It’s lawyers and stock brokers. You’re telling me there’s not one complete and total asshole among them?’" says Alexie. "Nobody even talked about individuals and the idea of individual sin. There was somebody in there cheating on his wife. There was somebody in there beating on his kids. There was somebody in there embezzling. Right away, they became metaphors and symbols. And the best of the people in the buildings were grouped in with the worst."The reality of those people is much more complicated and magical and painful than the way we look at it. Canonizing people also dehumanizes them," he continues. "So I just got really angry with the rhetoric that day. And I knew it was being used, and would be used, to justify all sorts of violence on both sides."Especially disconcerting to the author is how the topic has become off-limits, making "Can I Get a Witness?" all the more poignant and controversial. "Our stand-up comedians don’t even joke about it much," says Alexie, a one-time stand-up comedian himself. "And if our stand-up comedians aren’t doing it, then we’re really in trouble. If Chris Rock can’t be profane about 9/11, then what’s the point? That’s the best thing about this country: the celebration of our blasphemy."But Ten Little Indians is not all politics and blasphemy. Like all of Alexie’s books, his characters are complex studies of imperfect humans and their daily struggles. At the heart of "Can I Get a Witness?" is a discontented wife and mother who would have happily perished in the bombing and uses it as an opportunity to disappear.The directionless, spinning-wheels nature of the protagonist is also prevalent in the nine other stories in Ten Little Indians. The common thread connecting the stories is the product of Alexie’s prolific writing style. "I write so quickly and so obsessively–the stories are written in a very small time period–that most of my collections tend to have similar themes and similar ambitions," says Alexie. "This book is about white-collar Indians. I didn’t know what form that would take when I started the stories, but I knew it was going to be about successful Indians who were good at their jobs but clumsy at love."Alexie’s quick-witted ferocity gives his work a biting desperation that he credits to his poetry background. "I think short stories are more related to the poetry form. I’m a natural short story writer and a reluctant novelist," he says. "I think it really is the quick in and out, the passion of it. I’m a sprinter, not a marathon runner."My short stories, in some sense, have always had very strong narratives, so I think that’s probably why I work better in the short stories," he continues. "It’s because I’m a poet. Short stories are like very long poems. At least mine are, I hope."Alexie is an accomplished poet with eight collections in his catalogue–one of which, The Business of Fancydancing (a mix of stories and poems), was made into a film in 2002 and marked Alexie’s directorial debut. (Fancydancing made its first rounds locally at the Boulder Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last year, and was released on DVD on July 8.) Alexie was also the World Heavyweight Poetry Bout Champion from 1998-2001, before hanging up the gloves as the event’s first and only four-time champion.Despite his forays into directing, lecturing, stand-up comedy and poetry slams, Alexie is still a writer at heart. "Sitting at my computer writing at two in the morning: That’s the best part of it," he says of his various artistic pursuits.Even though Ten Little Indians is barely two months old, Alexie is already engrossed in his next, and very personal, project. "I’m working on a memoir about my grandfather who died in World War II on Okinowa, about him and my father. It’s called Inventing my Grandfather," he says. "It’s about philosophy and the idea of what war and warriors mean to Indian men. And how do you go from grandfather the war hero–he won 12 medals–to commie, pinko pacifist grandson."It’s a lot of research," he continues. "I’ve never had to do so much research for a book."The research has already paid personal dividends, resulting in a touching appearance on Oprah. "I’m part of an exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and it focuses on my grandfather and on my effort to get the medals reissued," he says. "That was supposed to have taken years, but on the Oprah show in January, Oprah had arranged for the medals to be delivered to me by a brigadier general. So, I was able to get the medals and give them to my father."Always the entertainer, Alexie’s upcoming appearance at the Boulder Book Store promises to deliver what fans have come to expect from the charismatic speaker–sidesplitting social commentary, funny anecdotes, great fiction, moving poetry and the opportunity to catch one of the greatest American writers in their prime."I’ll read a story, I’ll answer questions, I’ll be funny," says Alexie of the performance.More than that, he’ll be human–and in so doing will help all in attendance be more so themselves.


Favorite Quotes: I want to be a yellow and orange leaf some little kid picks up and pastes in his scrapbook.As for my father, he was so long gone that my mother and I called him Long Gone and told each other bedtime stories that always ended with him getting eaten by wild dogs. NOTICE OF HISTORICAL REVISION: I greatly missed my father and only pretended to hate him as much as my mother did.On the long list of things that I am, I’d put Indian at number three, behind “bitterly funny” at number two and “horny bastard” at number one for the last twenty-seven years running. If you put Junior and me next to each other, he’s the Before Columbus Arrived Indian, and I’m the After Columbus Arrived Indian. I am living proof of the horrible damage that colonialism has done to us Skins. But I’m not going to let you know how scared I sometimes get of history and its ways. I’m a strong man, and I know that silence is the best way of dealing with white folks.

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