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by John Q McDonald --- 8 July 2004

Ten Little Indians

by Sherman Alexie

The title is Ten Little Indians, but there are just nine short stories in this excellent book. Sherman Alexie has, perhaps, made a name for himself by telling modern stories of today's Spokane Native-Americans struggling with identity and purpose in our zany world. This collection highlights much of Alexie's powerful storytelling talent. The stories are vivid, intimate and daring. One or two are even close to shocking, especially when he dances close to September 11, 2001 and the almost sacred mythology that has grown up around that tragedy. There is a homeless Indian trying to regain his lost grandmother's regalia, in a story that appeared in the New Yorker. There is a man also trying to regain something, his lost basketball glory, in the name of his parents' memory. He doesn't get very far, but the story is touching and witty, as are all of those in this collection. There is an almost sacriligious dance of hope for a sick child that highlights Alexie's arch take on the sacred and the profane. In another story from the New Yorker, one little lie, told over an emaciated cat, haunts a couple until their dying days. Above all, there are just people trying to get by as Indians in what is still mostly a white-man's world. And there is lots of basketball (though you don't have to be a fan to enjoy seeing it from this perspective). These are among the most recent stories by Alexie, and are among his most refined and powerful. The book is full of wit and humanity. Very very good.

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Also by Alexie: [Indian Killer] [The Business of Fancydancing]