The Toughest Indian in the World

ISBN: 0802138004
ISBN 13: 9780802138002
By: Sherman Alexie

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About this book

A beloved American writer whose books are championed by critics and readers alike, Sherman Alexie has been hailed by Time as "one of the better new novelists, Indian or otherwise." Now his acclaimed new collection, The Toughest Indian in the World, which received universal praise in hardcover, is available in paperback. In these stories, we meet the kind of American Indians we rarely see in literature -- the kind who pay their bills, hold down jobs, fall in and out of love. A Spokane Indian journalist transplanted from the reservation to the city picks up a hitchhiker, a Lummi boxer looking to take on the toughest Indian in the world. A Spokane son waits for his diabetic father to come home from the hospital, tossing out the Hershey Kisses the father has hidden all over the house. An estranged interracial couple, separated in the midst of a traffic accident, rediscover their love for each other. A white drifter holds up an International House of Pancakes, demanding a dollar per customer and someone to love, and emerges with $42 and an overweight Indian he dubs Salmon Boy. Sherman Alexie's voice is one of remarkable passion, and these stories are love stories -- between parents and children, white people and Indians, movie stars and ordinary people. Witty, tender, and fierce, The Toughest Indian in the World is a virtuoso performance by one of the country's finest writers.

Reader's Thoughts


Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite authors...and not just because he is from the Northwest. This book is short stories-the movie Smoke Signals is based on another book of his short stories "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" (Which is also a good read).Check him out. Some of the stories are just heartbreaking, but they are all clever and worth a read. Sherman Alexie's story is also worth looking into. He grew up on a reservation right outside of Spokane and was one of the first members of his tribe to get a college degree. There's more to it than that, but you don't have to take my word for it duh nuh nuh.


I normally love Alexie. I like that he makes me think, but these stories are way to sexual for my liking. I only read the first one and 3/4 of the second one, and I am putting this book down. I don't want that much sexual information about anyone. I get that Alexie uses the sexual relationship to mean something entirely different, but to be honest, I don't want to slog through sex to get to his meanings. I'll pass on this one.

Matthew Wayne Smith

Sherman Alexie will challenge you. In this collection of short stories, Alexie will challenge what you think about race, sexuality, the politics of education, and many other topics. As a white person, I enjoyed reading a work that made me consider how a modern Native American might view his/her place and situation in the present U.S. Plus, Alexie's writing is at times slightly absurd and crazy (at least it seems that way sometimes, which I believe is intentional).


A few good short stories here, but too many clunkers. Some are awful, and were they not written by Alexie would never see print. The title story has a shocking turn of events that seemed unbelievable and nonsensical. Alexie knows how to write well: it's the constant theme of evil whites and poor Indians and how nobody knows 'Indian' like another Indian that becomes annoying. If you want to see Alexie's skills at their best, I suggest "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part time Indian". Don't let the YA label fool you.IMNSHO, Alexie is getting a pass about half the time, but I think he has the talent to be great one day. He simply needs to quit beating the horse (introduced by the Spaniards, BTW) and get a better 'story' into his stories. I look forward to it when he does.

Rebecca Robinson

I love Alexie's voice, and though not every story struck me in a deep manner, the ones that did really struck me. All around I think this is a wonderful set of stories that not only explore being of one identity but also many layers to the human condition. The most moving were the descriptions and journeys through white-Indian relations and how they have haunted this country and the world. I feel more young adults should read his work, as controversial as it is, to better understand the world they live in.


This is the second collection of stories by Alexie, and I think it shows. Some of these stories, which explore in different styles the modes and definitions of love, are spectacular. Some of them are really good. Some of them are kind of reaching, as if his interest in experimenting overwhelmed his storytelling. My husband just said to me that he's been disinclined to read much into Alexie's work because it's so obvious that Lone Ranger and Tonto was the book he had in him all his life. That makes sense to me-- what Alexie does best, he's already done to perfection. Which isn't to say that this doesn't contain much that is new, interesting, well-worth a read. It is all of that. But Lone Ranger and Tonto was pretty much flawless, and this collection, well, isn't.4/5 Diet Pepsis

Sara Jaye

I picked this up because it was cheap in a used bookstore, and I'm glad I did. It really reminded me what I love about Alexie (which Flight, which I'd read most recently, didn't exactly). Alexie never steps away from complexity, but is never melodramatic. Walking that line is both admirable, and a great read. On a side note, I think that Alexie is probably the best writer I can think of off the top of my head who is openly straight and addresses queer/nonhetero issues in his writing AMAZINGLY. I still have a text my sister sent me from a reading of his that I wasn't able to make: "So...I think it's important to homoeroticize my experiences."


I've been meaning to read one of Alexie's books for a while, especially since I taught the short story "Dear John Wayne" in the class I TA-ed last fall. Unfortunately, I found the short story collection The Toughest Indian in the World to be disappointingly uneven. Part of this may be the result of Alexie's unifying theme here--he says in the introduction to this edition that he set out to write "love stories... of white-collar Indians," which in practice seems to mean relying on heavy-handed use of sex as a symbol for (not) belonging. The sci-fi alternative future story "The Sin Eaters" was the standout, although I also enjoyed "Saint Junior," "One Good Man," and, of course, "Dear John Wayne." But overall, for me more stories didn't work in this collection than worked. I still have plans to read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, one of Alexie's earlier books of short stories that seems frequently claimed as his masterpiece, which I'm hoping impresses me more.


I've read, and enjoyed, most of Alexie's fiction. This collection, however, is probably my least favorite of his books. I was kind of surprised by the amount of graphic sex in the first four stories here. It didn't really fit the Alexie style. When I got to the fifth story, the middle of the book, "The Sin Eaters," I was shocked. Not by sex, this time, but because this story is science fiction. Perhaps an allegory, a metaphor, but it very much left the realm of realism far behind. The last half of the book redeemed it somewhat, though it was still pretty explicit. The final story here, "One Good Man," seemed so familiar to me, I'm pretty sure I read it before somewhere. I hope so, 'cause the alternative explanation would be that Alexie's themes and motifs are so familiar by being repetitive. It's not a bad collection -- far from it -- but it's different enough from what I was expecting that I couldn't quite overcome that expectation. If you haven't read Alexie, start with The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven, and then move on to Reservation Blues. Save this one for later.


I wish I was Indian just so I could properly worship at Sherman Alexie's altar. His story collections are superb--different enough but with enough recurring moments to create a cohesive whole. His stories make you feel like you're reading a universal truth about humanity even though he's clearly telling the Indian story and we blue-eyed devils can only catch a mere sliver of a glimpse behind the curtain. Not only are the stories pregnant with emotion (and the emotions in this collection are as diverse as can be), but they are also written well, somehow poetically novel without the flourish of the typical lyricist. I would recommend this collection to anyone and everyone.


I was moved to tears by several of the stories. I was totally surprised as I bought this secondhand book after reading his youth novel, The Absolutely True...which my 12 year old LOVED and which I also though was amazing (buy this book for any tween or teen male). I was not prepared for the sexual turns, the adultness of the material. Which was wonderfully done. I loved his humor and turns of phrase, his gender notes and homoeroticism. Also, noticed my feelings of pain as the outsider... the white and that is an essay in itself as I often read the ugly references to blacks, native peoples, women, asians, or how about other than white, in the general fiction out there and wonder at the suffering of readers who hold aspects of the pilloried identities.I Love the magic/fantasy that shows up in so many of his stories. I really loved South by Southwest.. the gentleman bandit story that is so fantastical. John Wayne, The Sin Eaters... I think he is a masterful storyteller and the nuggets of wisdom, truth, uncovering, suffering, self reflection, calling out and tenderness work for me. I'm a fan.


3 1/2 stars. A good collection of stories. Some subject matter might be to intense for you prudes out there though. Some stories have sex (oh my goodness!) Some stories are tales of adulterous sex(Oh My Goodness!). Some stories are about sex between the same genders (OH MY GOODNESS!). Unfortunately for you pervs out there those stories of sex would never be described as titillating, or erotic. They definitely sound real and plausible and that makes them all the better. My personal favorite was a story with some very dark imagery called "The Sin Eaters" in which Native Americans are rounded up and taken from their homes and sent to camps to be used in experiments for the betterment of society. Still thinking about it, so sad.

Ronald Wise

Sherman Alexie has been attracting attention for his poetry and fiction since the early 1990s, when he was in his late twenties. This collection of short stories took its title from one of the stories therein, which was originally published by The New Yorker. The most obvious thread in common to all these stories is the presence of Native American characters living in a white-dominant society. The central characters, however, vary in the degree of assimulation, and the objects of their efforts are not unique to their ethnicity — their expectations, approaches, and reactions often are.The events related in these stories seem to be directly or tangentially related to the author's personal experiences: Coming from the Spokane Indian Reservation and making a life for himself in the greater world, which for him thus far is the Northwest, and specifically Seattle; Leaving the rez in search of the success not possible there, while experiencing a perpetual sense of loss as the physical and temporal distance from one's roots grows; Attempting to live with people about whom one's knowledge is based predominantly on movies and television, and dealing with a dominant culture whose expections of you have the same basis.In each of these stories, however, Alexie presents a close-up of both societies that jars the reader's concept of American society. Perhaps there is a unique Native American way of seeing things, or a specific ethnic sense of humor. Or perhaps it's simply how a conquered people perceives the dominant group as portrayed through its commercial media. The dialogues in these stories — both internal and interpersonal — are well worth reading carefully.I found something meaningful in each of these stories, but my favorite was "South by Southwest". Especially thought-provoking in this one was the way in which Alexie tries to tease apart the emotional needs of closeness to another human being, and the sexual aspects of that closeness. This was a perfect example of how Alexie can take specific individuals and produce a cross-section of the human experience which spans cultures and time.I have some Native American history in my own family and have met many people of Native American identity over the years. Reading this book, I kept looking at the author's photograph on the back cover and wondering if I hadn't met this man before. Deciding I probably hadn't, I wish that I had or possibly might. Alexie's fiction seems to contain a great deal of autobiographical material, and I like to believe more of it is based on his experiences than is probably so. I look forward to reading more of his fiction.


This collection of short stories is a bit of a departure from Alexie's other works. While the stories are still those of Native Americans, this one deals - quite graphically - with sex. I'm afraid that some who pick this up as their introduction to Alexie would never pick up another of his books! And that would be a shame - he is a wonderful writer, and has a lot to say (especially for us 'white folk' I think). But I would not recommend this as your introduction to his work. Read


It isn’t easy to describe one of Sherman Alexie’s provocative collections of short stories. Reviews often seem limited to a string of adjectives—touching, funny, angry, passionate, bittersweet, tender, mysterious, magical, vivid and haunting. Real. Suffice to say that he is incredibly skilled at directing human emotions into words, which is no small feat considering most of us can’t even put our own thoughts into words, let alone good words. Really good words, as the case may be. Alexie is the master of the small moment: a wife watching her husband play basketball in the snow, a son meticulously purging his diabetic father’s house of hidden candy, a man standing in a phone booth with no one to call. He has an amazing ability to portray the rawness of people—their best and worst qualities all at once: the loving and the fighting, the cheating and the loyalty, the despair and the resilience of hope.

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