I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of the 20th anniversary edition of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie through a Grove Atlantic giveaway on Twitter.
I admit that I entered the contest because I had heard about the book, and other books by Sherman Alexie, but I hadn’t ever read one. It was just as good, better even, than I hoped it would be.
Sadly, my strong suit has never, ever been talking about or reviewing short stories. This is a book of short stories. Even in high school short stories always seem too… short to be reviewed on their own. And how to you review a book of short stories as a whole?
This is why chances are slim that I’ll ever write a short story.
But I digress.
The stories in this collection are about the Spokane Indians and as Mr. Alexie is a Spokane Indian, I have complete faith that these stories are true portrayals of life on that reservation.
Mr. Alexie says so himself in the introduction.
The introduction is actually the part of the book that sticks with me the most. The part where he says that when the book first came out he was criticized for giving in to the stereotype of the drunk, lazy Indian but argued that it is reality on the reservations was deep and strong.
Equally as important, and made clear throughout the stories, is the fact that while some Indians are content to be the drunk, lazy Indian there are some who aren’t. Education is valued, even though it’s often out of reach.
Family is important and although many families are broken, it seems like it’s sometimes because someone can’t live up to what they expect themselves to me.
Community is also hugely important, just as you’d probably expect, and that shows through even when middle aged men with beers in their hand speak sadly of the teenage stars on the basketball team who have started to drink.
The stories in this collection are fascinating, hopeful, and heartbreaking all at the same time. There are things to laugh about and things that make you want to cry.
The thing is… this is life. It’s life for a Spokane Indian and it’s life for everyone.
Sometimes it’s just nice to escape into someone else’s life and find out that unlike in romance novels or fantasy books, it’s not all that great there either.
This should be required reading for everyone.
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