Ten Little Indians

ISBN: 0965259684
ISBN 13: 9780965259682
By: Sherman Alexie

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Reader's Thoughts

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

Meghan Fidler

Titled after a fantastic dialog between two non-white men as they described their identities to one another, (in describing his Spokane Identity, the protagonist in "Flight patterns" describes himself not as a 'bejeweled' Indian from India, but the 'bows-and-arrows Indian to a cabbie. The cabby replies, "Oh, you mean ten little, nine little eight little Indians?"), this collection of short stories by Sherman Alexie showcases his talent at describing social relationships. I admire his ability to balance negative events and racial stereotyping with positive, loving moments within the narratives. Here's one of my favorites from the same aforementioned story; a moment between a husband and a wife:"William kissed Marie, reached beneath her pajama top, and squeezed her breasts. He thought about reaching inside her pajama bottoms. She wrapped her arms and legs around him and tried to wrestle him into bed. Oh, God, he wanted to climb into bed and make love. He wanted to fornicate, to sex, to breed, to screw, to make the beast with two backs. Oh, sweetheart, be my little synonym! He wanted her to be both subject and object. Perhaps it was wrong (and unavoidable) to objectify female strangers, but shouldn’t every husband seek to objectify his wife at least once a day? William loved and respected his wife, and delighted in her intelligence, humor, and kindness, but he also loved to watch her lovely ass when she walked, and stare down the front of her loose shirts when she leaned over, and grab her breasts at wildly inappropriate times—during dinner parties and piano recitals and uncontrolled intersections, for instance. He constantly made passes at her, not necessarily expecting to be successful, but to remind her he still desired her and was excited by the thought of her. She was his passive and active."Alexie is a master at portraying tensions between what is 'appropriate' (or even moral) in social relations as double edged: they create both limitations and openings for people. There are few authors who can capture these elements of human life with such an honest and detailed eye.


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.


I picked this up at a favorite small indy bookstore to a) support them and b) to keep reading Alexie.The timing was interesting because as an older work (2003) there is one story in particular that references 9//11 ("Flight Patterns"). Good reading while having a lot of 10-year anniversary media filling the air. Noticeable was the fact that the protagonist had to run to a pay phone in an airport. It startled, because so many people had cell phones in 01. But not everyone, even "sophisticates" were holding out, not just Luddites. After 9/11 cell phone usage exploded. But there is more in the story than running to the phone. But running to the phone is much more energetic and cinematic that pulling it out of a pocket. I miss running to the phone scenes.I like Alexie's writing. How brash and honest he is. How full of humor and shame and compassion. Fearless and funny. And poignancy that is a gift in context of the other riches. A rich but small desert rather than an entire bakery of too-sweet. Great combination.Another favorite is "The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above" for the way it is presented as much as the story. I like the inserted lists, Q&A, "NOTICE O HISTORICAL REVISION" that add character and playfulness. Yup. I am an Alexie fan.


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.


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.

Dalya Bordman

Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie, Grove Press, New York 2003 Sherman Alexie triumphs as a writer in this collection of short stories, Ten Little Indians. In this collection, Alexie largely deals with the different struggles and different circumstances Native Americans face living in the United States. In his nine stories, Alexie shows points of views from various different Native Americans, mostly living in Seattle Washington. He illustrates how a female college student struggles with her intellectual nature and being Native American, he shows the struggles of a half black half Native American man wanting to become involved in the political arena, and a Native American father struggling with his skin color after the attacks on September 11th. Although Alexie’s stories show distinct viewpoints, they all come together because of the characters in them. Every character shares the common identity as an Indian, thus creating a cohesive collection of short stories. Alexie writes straightforwardly and honestly, with topics like sex, love, and anger coming up throughout almost each story. In “Lawyer’s League,” Alexie honestly writes, “But Teresa seemed to be enjoying it. I wondered how soon I would see her naked” (59). Additionally, in “Flight Patterns” he writes, “He wanted to fornicate, to sex, to breed, to screw, to make the beast with two backs” (105). Thus, Alexie shows no fear of crossing boundaries and exploring human nature through his writing. He is not timid, but bold and forward. Further, Alexie unites all of his stories through Native American ties, yet he undermines many of the common Native American stereotypes. For example, most of the characters do not live on a Reservation; they are educated, and they are sober. Thus, Alexie not only captures the reader with honest, intelligent, and interesting characters, but he also shatters the stereotypes of their people. Thus, Alexie dually creates captivating characters and makes a political statement about Native Americans. Moreover, Alexie’s writing is consistent, yet varied. All of the stories share common threads and elements, however, they are varied enough to maintain the reader’s interest. For example, “The Search Engine” and “Lawyer’s League” have humorous and sarcastic characters, and do not deal with heavy subject matter. On the other hand, “The Life and Times of Estelle Walk Above” and “Flight Patterns” still have humorous moments, however, they deal with much more dramatic situations, largely September 11th. Thus, Alexie’s stories flow as one collection because of the common elements like humor and his straightforward characters; however, the reader does not lose interest moving from one story to the next because of the varied subject matter and variations in the character’s point of views. In the end, Sherman Alexie’s Ten Little Indians gives insight to Native American life, and proves to be an enjoyable read. His characters are captivating, and his straightforward writing style keeps the reader interested and excited to see what will appear on the next page. Some stories are written in first person, and others are written in third person, which once again creates variation from one story to the next. The only element of Alexie’s collection that could be improved upon is the variation in setting. It is a little monotonous that almost every story took place in Seattle, Washington. However, this is just one minor glitch in an overall successful collection of stories.

Jamilla Rice

Now, just to let you know, Sherman Alexie is like meth with me. I get a hit and I have to keep going, sometimes losing sleep, until I have run through my stash. Then I start getting itchy all over wanting more. I was addicted from the first time I saw Smoke Signals, but I became absolutely enraptured from the moment I read the first line in "Every Little Hurricane", the first short story in his collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven which includes the title story that was the basis for the Smoke Signals, screenplay. His writing is hilarious, poignant, maddeningly sad, yet still hopeful. He makes me want to write more whenever I read him. He also makes me realize that there are so many stories that we have in our heads that we've fashioned, both fiction and nonfiction, that need to be told. The first story, "The Search Engine" is a magnificently bad pun, yet perfect for the content. The main character, Corliss, a college student, voracious reader, and unapologizing eavesdropper is a breath of fresh air. The next story, "Lawyer's League" centers on individual and group politics and Alexie's other pastime, playing basketball. Ten Little Indians has sat on my shelf at work for quite some time, but this was the right time to hear a few new stories from a great storyteller, and I am ever so thankful for Mr. Alexie's words.Favorite/Memorable Quotes:“A good gun will always beat a good poem.” “I hope not,” Corliss said and walked away. (4)“She’d been a resourceful thief, a narcissistic Robin Hood who stole a rich education from white people and kept it.” (5)“Maybe every book in every library is patiently waiting for its savior.” (9)“What kind of Indian loses her mind over a book of poems? She was that kind of Indian, she was exactly that kind of Indian, and it was the only kind of Indian she knew how to be.” (9)“How can you live a special life without constantly interrogating it? How can you live a good life without good poetry?” (13)“College was an extreme sport for an Indian woman. Maybe ESPN should send a camera crew to cover her academic career. Maybe she should be awarded medals for taking American history and not shooting everybody during the hour and a half in which they covered five hundred years of Indian history.” (30)“It’s tough to be a smart girl anywhere, but it’s way tough on the rez.” (126)


Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie is not your typical pow-wow Indian imagery, it contains some of the most attractive nine short stories that I have ever read. Alexie uses humor to attack the social issues that Native Americans have to deal with everyday living in the United States. He also uses some of the most unique characteristics in his short stores, here Native Americans vary from homeless Native Americans to the most successful traveling business man with a perfect family. Sherman Alexie also mentions 9/11 in many of his short stories, even though much of the setting takes place in Seattle, 9/11 is represented especially in one of my favorite short stories called Can I Get A Witness?In this short story we are introduced to a wife and mother of two. She is sitting in a restaurant daydreaming about the mystery of her waiter and why he has not given back her credit card back, then a man enters with a bomb around his chest and the woman looks at him with a smile in her face, the complete opposite of what one would do in this situation. As the story continues we come to the conclusion that the woman had always wanted to be in this type of situation to escape her life and fake her death. she mentioned how her husband and children hated her, and found death to be the only solution.I am very glad that Mary put this book in the table because it is a book that does not allow you to keep your eyes off of it. i recommend this book to those who might not really like short stories or those who do, this book will change your perception of short stories because it did for me. I am looking forward to read more of his books.

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

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.

Theresa Sivelle

Well, I only made it thru the 4th story. That is all I care to read. I didn't like any of the stories and I didn't care for the writing. It appears that I am definitely in the minority here but I thought the 4 stories that I did read were awful. The sexual references seemed to just be thrown in simply to show that he could and didn't seem to me to add anything of any value to any of the stories I did manage to read. I have absolutely no desire to read any more of this book. Maybe someone in one of my book clubs can convince me otherwise and if so, maybe I'll put this one on a different shelf but if not I will be more than happy to give this one back.Okay, so the facilitator of two of my book groups review seem to indicate that the stories after I stopped weren't bad so I'm going to give this another try. I finished this and the Chapters after the 4th one were better but still not an author I want to read any more books by and still doesn't change my rating.

Sucia Dhillon

One of my favorite collections of short stories. I loved how Alexie reeled me in and had me share in his human experience. My favorite was the old basketball player one (forgot the official title). A close runner up was the first one, about the girl who tracks down the guy who wrote the Indian poems. I loved how this revealed that sensation we all get when we think we've got the answer, and then realize that it was a farce, or just a smoke screen, and then all we have left is ourselves.


This book was kind of a mixed bag. There were a number of stories that didn't do much for me, but there were also a few of the most affecting stories I've read all year. "What You Pawn I Will Redeem", "Do You Know Where I Am?", "Can I Get A Witness?" and "Lawyer's League" were especially great. What struck me most was Alexie's ability to inhabit a number of different voices throughout the collection. I personally find it difficult to create a unique voice for different stories, but he seems to do it effortlessly. One thing that was odd for me was the nature of Alexie's humor. There were often sections of wit that I found really funny, while at other points I found it cringe-inducing. I wonder if he is a sort of idiot savant that hasn't quite figured out how to brandish his sense of humor. Certainly an interesting author to keep an eye on.


This must have been an EXCELLENT book. I am not a fan of short stories, but I read and enjoyed them all. I think my favorite was the one with Corliss and the poetry. This was one of the "everybody reads" selections for 2013 for the Multnomah County Library. https://multcolib.org/everybody-reads

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