Blasphemy / Sherman Alexie

This collection of new and selected stories by Sherman Alexie was published in 2012. To understand what these stories are about, one must first know that Alexie is a Native American, and that he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpint, Washington. In this collection, he observes modern day life among Native Americans living in the Pacific Northwest. For the most part, the setting is not on any particular Indian reservation. Rather, the stories take place in the larger nearby cities of Seattle and Spokane. But the “rez” is never far from their thoughts. The Indian characters he focuses on here are trying to find their way in white society while holding on to their own sense of identity. They come from troubled childhoods where alcoholism, diabetes, violence, and poverty have left deep scars on their psyches. The anthology includes fifteen older stories with sixteen new ones. Racism, stereotypes, and loss of language and traditional customs are topics frequently addressed. So too are the difficulties of married life, be it between two Indians or mixed couplings. The lives of the characters he portrays are damaged ones, but almost all of them use humor as a coping mechanism. Thought provoking and often witty, these stories deliver a message without resorting to preaching. Best of all, Alexie’s writing is straightforward and accessible to the average reader. If you haven’t read any of his poetry, short stories, or novels, this collection provides a great introduction to his work.

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